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Who Killed Teddy Bear
cast: Sal Mineo, Juliet Prowse, Elaine Stritch, Jan Murray, and Margot Bennett

director: Joseph Cates

87 minutes (15) 1965
Network DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 5/10
reviewed by Ian Sales
The past, they say, is a different country; they do things differently. Certainly having now watched Who Killed Teddy Bear, I can see no reason why it should have been rejected by the British Board of Film Censors 40 years ago. It is not shocking, it is not titillating, it does not glorify loose morals; there is no gore to be seen, no expanses of naked flesh. It is, by modern standards, relatively restrained.

Nora (Juliet Prowse) is a DJ at 'discotheque' managed by Marian Freeman (Elaine Stritch). Lawrence (Sal Mineo) also works there as a busboy. Nora has been receiving obscene phone calls. She reports them to the police. Lieutenant Dave Madden (Jan Murray) investigates. He's a widower, with a young daughter, but his motives seem more than merely investigative. Madden eventually realises that Lawrence, who lives opposite, is a peeping tom and responsible. And this is because of some incident in his past when a little girl - his daughter? his sister? - carrying a teddy bear, witnessed him having sex, fled, and tumbled down stairs. It could be his sister, Edie (Margot Bennett), who now lives with him and is mentally retarded.

Who Killed Teddy Bear is very much a film of its time. Much of it takes place in the discotheque, which is frequently full of dancing customers. Sal Mineo plays his role like a cross between Marlon Brando and James Dean, but fails to demonstrate the screen presence of either. Juliet Prowse seems too self-confident to really worry about her stalker, and has remarkably little trouble with those keen to press their affections on her. Until, that is, the final scene with Lawrence. The story unfolds with soap opera inevitability, and is only really interesting for the window it gives on the world of 1960s' New York sleaze. In one extended dialogue-less scene, Lawrence wanders about Times Square and its surroundings, looking at posters for the peep-shows, browsing the porn mags and 'underground' books. It's a world no one was keen to admit existed, never mind document in a feature film. At least not until the following decade...

In all, Who Killed Teddy Bear feels more like a mildly entertaining curio than a missing masterpiece. The flashbacks referencing the little girl and the teddy bear are muddled and confusing, Madden's motives are never made clear, Prowse seems to float without a care above her character's problems, and Mineo pouts like a bargain-basement Brando. It's no Midnight Cowboy.

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