Jailbait Juvie: And When She Was Bad… (1973)

Dave swoons over another early Gary Graver outing, one that’s among the best in his eclectic career.

In ‘Orson’s Last Stand’, Josh Karp’s excellent Variety article from May 2015, he wrote that on the day Gary Graver met Orson Welles, July 3rd 1970, his life was changed forever: “Welles was now the central figure in Graver’s life: more important that his wife, his children, his bank account, and his health.”

But what effect did Welles have on Graver’s creativity? Far from being manacled to the great auteur’s every whim, the prolific Oregonian was able to flex his creative muscle shortly after their union and crank out two of the most fascinating pictures of his career: Midnight Intruders (1973) and AND WHEN SHE WAS BAD… (aka ‘There Was A Little Girl’).

There’s a few interesting flourishes throughout Graver’s career where you apportion a degree of influence to another filmmaker that he worked with, before, more often than not, finding out they hadn’t yet crossed paths. This is applicable to Sandra: The Making of a Woman (1970) where you detect the odd Wellesian touch (though it was shot the year prior to them meeting), while And When She Was Bad… has a dose of Cassavetes to it, not least in the mesmeric dialogue that litters the early scene at the kitchen table. However, it would be twelve months until Graver would shoot second unit on Cassavetes’ A Woman Under the Influence (1974).

Enough about holding sway, because if anything, this is the movie that sees Graver well and truly off the leash, as he lenses his self-penned tale of Ken (John Alderman), whose relationship with his new girlfriend, Rita (Heather Vale), is thrown into chaos when a visit from his former step-daughter, Sharon (Lyllah Torena), leads to temptation and seduction at the hands of the teenage temptress.

Of all his pre-porn output, this is the picture that sees Graver working with his most recognisable cast and crew, which in turn brings a well-oiled dynamic to the project. John Alderman could well be Graver’s own Ben Gazzara, while regular player Robert Aiken (who co-wrote Graver’s Sandra: The Making of a Woman and Moon in Scorpio (1987)) pops up in a hilarious cameo as a righteous bible salesman (“You’re possessed by the devil!”), and there’s room also for the indispensable Jean Clark (Texas Lightning (1981)) as a leery photographer.

Meanwhile, behind the camera (and briefly in front) is regular operator R. Michael Stringer who, along with Michael Ferris, would go on to work on Welles’ The Other Side of the Wind (2018). The three musketeers shoot anything and everything, as when we occasionally escape the four walls of Ken and Rita’s house, we’re treated to thrilling location footage of Los Angeles and Las Vegas – which also gives Graver an opportunity for not one, but two director cameos.

And When She Was Bad… frequently plays up to its sexploitation expectation, but in doing so it never becomes the nudie cutie slog that so many of its peers often descend into. Torena layers Sharon with a smouldering charm, and manages to balance a perfect mix of sociopathic fragility and sexual audacity. Meanwhile, Graver’s examination of Ken and Rita’s maturing relationship gives a dramatic edge to the picture that lifts it from the exploitation doldrums into the realm of fine independent cinema.

Interestingly, Graver would semi-remake And When She Was Bad… some twenty years later as Angel Eyes (1993).

USA ● 1973 ● Drama ● 85mins

John Alderman, Lyllah Torena, Heather Vale, Robert Aiken, Jean Clark ● Dir. Gary Graver ● Wri. Gary Graver

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