|Might as well change this feature to “Black & White Screen Grab Theater,” since I’m running out of noirs for the moment, and would rather expand the subject matter than stretch the definition to include, say, Dennis the Mennis reruns. And why do I do this in the first place? Main reason: something for Tuesday, since Monday is the busiest writing day, and I can bang this out at a coffee shop while running Saturday errands. (Which is what I’m doing, at a Dunn’s.) Also because I enjoy finding familiar faces in unfamiliar places, looking at the stories behind the walk-ons, gleaning details from the occasional freeze-frame. Whether you find it interesting I don’t know, but I worried about that this site would be thin and small. So. This week it’s the famous big-studio juvie-peril classic:
It was written by Evan Hunter, who also wrote nine million police novels under the name Ed McBain. (He died July 05, which I didn’t know.) Here’s the obligatory disclaimer that warms your heart, because it means we’re really gonna see some good stuff if they gotta put this up:.
Everyone was worried about the rise of youth crime, and this film did not exactly placate the nervous public. After meeting the students at the school – evocatively named North Manual – you have one simple answer to juvenile delinquency, and that is: gas every male under the age of 21. Go all Pharoah on their ass, man. Why? Because they are insolent in the fashion that makes adults go mad with frustration; you can’t get through to them, can’t get past the hard grin. Doesn’t matter that the gibes and taunts the kids make sound today’s patois sound Elizabethian, or that the evil juvies wear sport coats and the occasional tie; they’re just bad. How do we know from the start? Because when Glen Ford – who spends the movie looking like he’s moving a piece of Lego through his industrial tract – shows up, the kids are dancing in the front of the school, and dancing to Rock and Roll. BILL HALEY, friends. That’s how wild they are.
Here’s the thing: they’re dancing with each other.
The thugs are doing coordinated dance routines with other thugs, which somehow takes away from the aura of danger. Imagine a ghetto movie today that began with hard-core bangers doing the Lindy together, and you get the picture. Times have changed, I guess. I groaned when I saw this, because I had heard this would be a gritty movie. Gritty this was not. Then a girl walks down the street, and all the wolves run to the fence to whistle. What follows is one of the more suggestively filthy things I’ve ever seen in a 50s movie, period:.
See the guy on the right? He brings out a pop bottle, holds it at crotch level, pours it out and shakes it as she passes so it appears to, ah, erupt with a viscous liquid. It happens very fast, but it’s unnerving, and his flat killer-diller face adds to the creep factor. We’ll meet him again.
Glen Ford is the idealistic young teacher assigned to beat verbs into the adamantine skulls of these sullen cretins. The day he gets the job he’s actually happy, and tells his pregnant wife to meet him at the Italian restaurant around the corner. I froze the picture here:
Because watching movies with IMDB up has taught me that few older actors just walk into a picture without trailing a four-decade resume. The actor here – who does nothing but hand Ford the bottle of wine and leave, never to be seen again – is Manuel Paris, who appeared in 97 movies. The roles were small – doorman, waiter, dealer – and you probably fit all his speaking lines on a single piece of paper. But still: 97 movies.
Here’s the bad guy, the one kid who’s so rotten we know he cannot be redeemed in the last reel. Just a punk. A useless punk.
Vic Morrow. This was his first movie, and he’d make a few more before he was decapitated by a helicopter blade in 1982.
Somehow this kid isn’t as scary as he’s supposed to be.
Just another sniveling loser. But who is he? Well, he will soon be seen in “National Lampoon’s Cattle Call,” now in post-production. He was in “Down and Out in Beverly Hills.” Hell, he directed “Down and Out in Beverly Hills,” as well as “An Unmarried Woman” and other films. That’s right! It’s Paul Mazursky, the director whose name always makes people think: didn’t he have to go to France after something with an underage girl? (No: that was Roman Mazursky.) (Don’t send letters.)
There’s another bad guy in the bathroom, also making his film debut:
They call him Mister Ambivalent Role Model Whose Goodness Bursts Through in the Denouement. The great Sidney Poitier.
And then there’s this guy! You know, this guy:
Come on, it’s that guy! Sigh. You’re hopeless. Well, I didn’t recognize him, either. More later.
Those were the days when you could fargin’ discipline a guy what got outta hand, thus:
The bloodied-up guy got a righteous pounding from Glenn Ford, who caught him trying to rape a teacher. He's Pete Miller, and he acts little – does a great rubber-legged stagger, though. Check out the resume: “Blackboard Jungle,” followed by “Rebel without a Cause,” followed by “Forbidden Planet” and “Crime in the Streets.” Minor rolls, though. IMDB says he made a pile in business investments and retired from acting in the early 70s.
The guy on the right is listed in IMDB as “Guy Who Sits Behind West.” Who is he, exactly?
It’s John Erman – a guy who directed a bazillion TV shows. I mention him here because he directed the longest and most musically painful Star Trek episode of them all, “The Empath.” Blame him! Him and him alone!
Now, it’s that guy! That other guy:
Aw crap! Imagine going to work for the first day and it’s that bastard industrialist from “When Worlds Collide!” And he’s not in a wheelchair, which means he can run after you now! Was there was a harder hardass than this guy? He’s about as mean as people ever get in movies, and not in that hard-mean-gruff-but-lovable sort. He’s the kind of guy who would beat John Galt to a pulp and stand over him slinging stinging insults until Galt started to cry.
John Hoyt was his name, and you know what I love? His last movie was "Desperately Seeking Susan."
Then there’s this guy!
No matter where he goes, there he is: Mel Cooley. Or Richard Deacon, if you prefer. I actually think he is an alien from a race where everyone looks like Mel Cooley, and he dropped down here for a few decades to study us.
Okay, back this guy.
Not the guy in the middle; that’s Dan Terranova, and he didn’t do much the movies. Not the “Combat” star who got decapitated in a Twilight Zone movie, not Poitier, not the director of “The Empathy.” The big tall geeky one on the left
Ready? It’s him.