Consenting Adults: Jailbait (1993)

Dave discovers that Rafal Zielinski’s Donald P. Borchers-produced film is less about holding your nose, and more about holding your own.

“I’ve made twenty-one films in my career so far, and I think so highly of this one, I’ve actually put my name on it three times,” says a clearly irritated Donald P. Borchers in a telephone call to the MPAA (which you can hear in full on YouTube). The reason for his chagrin was down to their concerns over the content of his 1993 production, JAILBAIT, and its depiction of teenage girls resorting to sex to survive on the seedy streets of L.A. The board felt that two specific scenes that lingered on sexual acts was justification for a box-office crippling NC-17 rating, but Borchers was seething with anger. “There are major studio films that glamourize the plight of the girl who runs away to Hollywood. You know, [in my film] she doesn’t wake up the middle of Richard Gere’s suite. She wakes up with a guy taking a piss next to her.”

“I’m broke. I live in a month to month rental apartment. I lost everything on Grave Secrets (1989), which I attribute principally to the rating [the horror movie was given an NC-17 and bombed at the cinema]. They took my house. They took everything I own. I have to pay the bank loan off this movie, and I have to pay it off on Tuesday. There are thirty-thousand screens in North America, and every one requires that the film must be rated.”

Jailbait was clearly a passion project for the prolific producer, having spawned the storyline for the film with Robert Vincent O’Neil who certainly seemed to have cornered the Hollywood hooker market in the wake of Vice Squad (1982) and Angel (1984). They begin by introducing us to seventeen year-old Kyle (Renee Humphrey), who comes to the city in search of her half-sister Merci (Krista Errickson) – someone we later discover to be on the run for her involvement in a murder. Hungry and homeless, Kyle eventually falls under the reluctant care of renegade cop Lee Teffler (C. Thomas Howell) in a relationship that soon spirals from paternal to physical.

Despite unsubstantiated allegations that certain creatives leave this film off their resume due to its unsavoury tone, it’s important to emphasise that Borchers didn’t set out to make anything exploitative. Indeed, with a film like Pretty Woman (1990) still fresh in the public consciousness, he merely intended to craft a picture that would introduce impressionable young girls to a movie that would offer a stark contrast to Garry Marshall’s farcical flight of fancy. Credit to Canadian journeyman Rafal Zielinski (Screwballs (1984), Valet Girls (1987)), then, who depicts downtown Hollywood with the necessary candour, while Humphrey – in her first feature role – deserves high praise for her performance. Jailbait may be burdened with the label of ‘problematic’, but its cause is too noble to erase it from history.

Also known as ‘Streetwise

C. Thomas Howell, Renee Humphrey, Krista Errickson ● Dir. Rafal Zielinski Wri. Donald P. Borchers, Robert Vincent O’Neil (story), Robert Vincent O’Neil, Alien Castle (screenplay)

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