Cast & Crew
Eighteen-year-old Johnnie Simpson has lived with his father Frank and Aunt Martha since his mother died when he was three. Frank is very hard on Johnnie and constantly criticizes him. One night, Johnnie goes to a local drive-in restaurant, where his girl friend, Betty Palmer, works as a waitress. While he is there, the obnoxious Maurie Weston, who owns a fancy hot rod car, needles Johnnie about his father not allowing him to have a car. After Betty rebuffs Maurie's attempts to date her, she lets Johnnie drive her home in her brother's car. Johnnie speeds recklessly and is stopped by the police who drive him home, where his father is presented with a summons to appear in court with Johnnie. After Frank berates Johnnie for his irresponsible behavior, Martha suggests to Frank that he needs to spend more time with his son. Later, unknown to Frank, Johnnie gets a summer job at a service station run by Bert Morrison, who has a seventeen-year-old son, Jimmy, who was stricken with polio when he was nine. Bert is building a hot rod to race in Jimmy's name and invites Johnnie to help him. Frank is angry when he finds out about Johnnie's job, as he would much prefer that the boy work in his real estate office, and tells him to quit. That night, after Johnnie is hesitant to commit to a long-term relationship with Betty, they have dinner together but when Maurie again interferes, Johnnie challenges him to a fight. Maurie suggests a road race instead and, although Johnnie has no car, he agrees, saying he will meet Maurie in an hour. Betty refuses to lend Johnnie her car as she does not want him to get into more trouble, so he asks her to drive him to a used car lot where he manages to persuade a salesman to let him test-drive a hot rod, promising to return it early the next morning along with a deposit for its purchase. When Johnnie and Maurie meet up, Maurie leads him to a deserted stretch of highway, where they will drive toward each other at high speed. The winner of the "chicken" contest will be the driver who does not swerve away. Betty and some other teenagers have followed the rivals to the location. When the boys are about to collide, Betty runs right into their path causing both drivers to swerve to avoid her. Since Betty has called the police on her way there, a patrol car soon shows up and Maurie flees. The officers take Johnnie and Betty to the police station where both their fathers have to come to collect them and Frank receives another summons to appear in court. Although the judge is lenient, Frank orders Johnnie to tell Bert he is quitting, as his father does not want him involved with cars. Bert decides to talk with Frank and tries to persuade him to help Johnnie, citing his own relationship with his son, but Frank remains unmoved. While Bert is talking with Frank at his office, Maurie and two of his cronies drive into the station and start a fight with Johnnie. When Bert returns, he phones Frank to suggest that Johnnie could use some lessons in how to defend himself in a fight. However, Frank, a former college boxing champ, only antagonizes Johnnie further when, having bought boxing gloves for them both, he knocks Johnnie down three times and seems more concerned with showing off his own ability. That evening, Johnnie tells Betty that he has decided to leave town after he spends the night in Bert's station. When Bert arrives the next morning, he discovers that the hot rod is gone and phones the police. Frank has also contacted the police and discusses Johnnie's disappearance with Bert. Later, when Johnnie phones Betty and admits that he has the car, she tells him that Bert has entered it, in Jimmy's name, in a race that afternoon in San Fernando. Although Johnnie has told Betty that he cannot return the car, Bert has a hunch that Johnnie will show up and invites Frank and Betty to join him at the races. Eventually, Johnnie arrives and meets Jimmy, who walks with the aid of a stick. Bert then tells Johnnie that he wants him to drive the car for Jimmy. Johnnie competes against his old rival Maurie and wins, then, after Maurie attacks him, beats him up. With Johnnie and his father now on good terms, Frank offers to buy the car for him and Bert agrees, but only if Frank will allow Johnnie to help him build another. All parties are happy with that arrangement and as Frank drives Johnnie and Betty home in the hot rod, he gets a speeding ticket.
Rudy Friml Jr.
Joy N. Houck
J. Francis White
Although the main title reads Teenage Thunder, the film was reviewed and advertised as Teen Age Thunder. The film marked the first time that long-time camera operator Jacques Marquette acted as producer and director of photography. It also provided the first major roles for actors Charles Courtney, Melinda Byron and Robert Fuller. In his autobiography, director Paul Helmick stated that the film was shot entirely in the San Fernando Valley, CA, in approximately six days and at a cost of well under $100,000. Teen Age Thunder was Helmick's first film as a director after several years as an assistant director on numerous major films.