A seventeen-year-old girl, still in high school, runs off and marries her twenty-four-year-old boyfriend. Sounds like the kind of stuff we saw in after-school specials quite often in the 80’s. But in 1959, this was the stuff of cheap, short, exploitation films…like today’s movie, “The Diary of a High School Bride.”The film begins with a strange scene, as we see young Judy (Anita Sands) and her new husband, Steve (Ron Foster) returning from having eloped in Vegas. She is practically in tears and breaks down several times…all the while clutching her teddy bear. They even get pulled over by a cop and have to awkwardly explain that they are, in fact, husband and wife.
Then they go to inform Judy’s parents (Louise Arthur and Barney Brio) of the joyous news. They are less than thrilled and of course wonder if Judy is prego. She strongly informs them that she is not. Though the parents aren’t happy, they choose not to interfere…but deep down they know that Judy will come running back sooner or later.
Now that talking to the parents is out of the way, it’s time to get back to Steve’s apartment. We all know what’s on Steve’s mind, but Judy is still a bit shaky on the subject and would rather grope her teddy bear than poor old Steve. Instead of having some wedding night fun, the two end up at the coffee shop where Steve (still a college student himself) works nights. While there, they encounter some of Judy’s schoolmates…including a former boyfriend of hers, Chuck (Chris Robinson). Soon, word begins to spread among her peers about the marriage.
Out to make things tough for Judy, Chuck and his new girl, Gina (Wendy Wilde) decide to spread the news around school…embellishing it with the claim that they “had” to get married, if you know what I mean. This doesn’t cause Judy nearly half as much trouble as simply dealing with keeping up with the housework AND doing all her schoolwork.
Things are tough for the young couple, especially for Steve since it’s still questionable for us in the audience as to whether they have truly consummated their marriage yet. A few more run-ins with Chuck lead to near traffic accents and fist fights. But that’s not the only trouble…Judy’s parents have been plotting, too. They know just how to get this marriage to fall apart…buy them new furniture! Yep, they know that Judy will love the gift, but that Steve’s pride and desire to make his own way will not allow him to accept it. And, of course, their right! Now let me ask…if they had had a real wedding, and people had brought gifts, would Steve had said, “Who bought us these lace doilies? Don’t they think I can earn them myself! Take them back!” Of course not! Has anyone really ever done this in real life?Anyhow, the parents plan, combined with the fact that Steve thinks Judy is having the hots for Chuck again, succeeds in breaking the couple up. Judy ends up back at her parents’ house. When Judy has second thoughts, she asks Chuck to talk to Steve and explain that there was nothing between them. Chuck agrees, but really just sets into motion a plan to take advantage of Judy at his dad’s movie studio. Somehow, Steve needs to learn the truth and save Judy before it’s too late.
The movie really wants you to think that it’s about the controversial 1959 subject of teen marriage. But that’s really just a small aspect of the story. Really, the movie is more about the fact that psychopathic high school kid is stalking and menacing his former girlfriend and her new husband. We’re not “talking teens will be teens” type of stuff with the this Chuck jerk! He concocts situations that are designed to bring about serious injury, rape, maybe even death. The filmmakers might have had a bit stronger picture had they just thrown out the high school aspect, made Judy 22 years old, and made the film about an obsessive ex-boyfriend.
Still, the movie is well made, as 50’s exploitation flicks go. Anita Sands, herself just 18 and appearing in her first film, is very good in portraying the varied emotional states of her character. But the one thing Judy lacks is any scenes that show just what she sees in Steve in the first place. She’s not pregnant, just madly in love…yet we don’t see any of that. Can’t say I blame her though, Foster’s portrayal of Steve is a bit flat.
The underage marriage thing makes the film sound risque…but really, this is more of a juvenile delinquent film. The end result is still enjoyable, but the film would’ve been stronger without the high school stuff.