When a b-movie from 1975 has a title like Trip with the Teacher, all sorts of filthy stuff comes to mind. That decade remains amazing because of what filmmakers could get away with.
Written, produced, and directed by Earl Barton, Trip with the Teacher tells the story of four high school girls and their teacher on a bus trip into rural southern California or northern Baja. The idea is to get these girls some life experience outside of the sunny confines of Los Angeles. The teacher and her girls are: Miss Tenny (Brenda Fogarty), Bobbie (Dina Ousley), Julie (Cathy Worthington), Tina (Jill Voight), and Pam (Susan Russell). They are joined by a bus driver named Marvin (Jack Driscoll). Barton didn’t do much to differentiate the girls from one another. He just made sure to cast actresses who were pleasing to the eye.
Along the same route the bus happens to be traveling, viewers meet a trio of bikers. They are brothers Pete and Al (Robert Porter and Zalman King), and Jay (Robert Gribbin), who stopped to help Pete fix a flat and ended up riding along with the brothers. Jay is a nice guy, while Pete and Al give off some nasty vibes. Especially Al. He wants nothing to do with Jay, and, until the events of the film take their inevitable dark turn, has little to say. He’s wound very tightly, as if he is ready to lash out at any second. King’s performance is a little over the top. So much so that out in the real world, people might be inclined to smack him across the head.
After some introductory stuff, the plot gets going when the bus breaks down and the bikers stop to help. Al, of course, doesn’t want to help them at all. He’s more interested in what the bus is carrying, and not its destination. Jay, being the good guy, is gung ho, and he manages to convince Pete to do the right thing and help. They hook their bikes up to the bus and tow it to a nearby farm that Pete recalls from an earlier ride in the area, where they might be able to fix the bus. But, when they arrive, they find the farm has since been abandoned. Miss Tenny is getting quite distressed at this point. The situation is made worse when Al suggests just leaving the bus and the girls there. They tried to help, and it didn’t work out, and he has places to be. This sets off an argument and a fight, and Al finally snaps, killing the bus driver, knocking Jay senseless, and holding the girls and Miss Tenny hostage in the farmhouse.
This is when the film takes its dark turn. There was no chance a plot like this doesn’t have rape and murder in it. Al didn’t intend killing Marvin, but now that it’s done, the girls and Jay have to be killed, as well. But, not before he’s had his fun with all of them. Al is a real monster.
Pete, meanwhile, is conflicted, but only somewhat. He knows his brother well, and it’s hinted early in the film that murderous behavior is not unknown to the pair. Pete is no good guy, and he carries on out of loyalty to his brother. The one good thing that can be said about Pete is that he doesn’t get in on the rape. He lets it happen, though, so, fuck him.
There wasn’t much hope going into this flick that it would be an easy watch. Good films have been made out of such dark subject matter, but the aim of this film was exploitation. Rape is intended to be an entertaining and titillating plot device in this flick, when it’s anything but. That aspect of the plot, then, is almost impossible to get past.
Then there’s the overall quality of the film. It stinks. This is Barton’s magnum opus — the only film in his credits that was his and his alone. Forgetting the subject matter, his screenplay is just inane. As for the cast, he couldn’t get much more out of them than flat reads. King, despite his performance being so hammy, is the best of the bunch. By the end, though, I was sick of his giggling and croaking laughter.
Igo Kantor, a veteran in Hollywood music departments, provided the score for this flick, and it’s not good at all. In some scenes the bombast doesn’t fit the action on the screen, and in others, Kantor settled for noodling on an organ. His music is so generic at times that it sounds more like it was sourced from a stock catalogue rather than composed specifically for this film.
Of final note is the film’s cinematographer. Not because the film was shot well, or even poorly, but because of who it was. The immortal Ray Dennis Steckler, Cash Flagg himself, shot this movie. He is a legendary shitty filmmaker, and must have taken on this job to pay some bills in between directing French Throat and Teenage Hustler. I didn’t expect to see his shitty expertise in so random a flick.
It’s the plot that makes Trip with the Teacher a difficult shitty watch. Other than that, the general incompetence of the film is quite pleasing to the discerning shitty movie fan. But, we like our nudity in shitty movies to be gratuitous, rather than essential to a disturbing story. Barton and company weren’t up to the job. Trip with the Teacher settles into the depths of the Watchability Index, displacing Jack Frost at #199. There is much better sleaze out there to watch.