The Blackboard Jungle

The Blackboard Jungle

3.0 out of 53.0 out of 53.0 out of 53.0 out of 53.0 out of 53.0

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Hey, daddy-o! What was once a hot-topic message movie about the state of juvenile delinquency in inner city schools is now a dinosaur relic of the Eisenhower era. Former navy man turned idealistic teacher Mr. Dadier (Glenn Ford) tries making a difference with schoolyard thugs, whose criminal habits include attempted rape and armed robbery. He finds his hopes confirmed in musical prodigy Gregory Miller (Sidney Poitier), but when he tries helping the kid he inadvertently stirs up some racial tension. Melodrama escalates when the pregnant Mrs. Dadier (Anne Francis) gives birth prematurely as a result of hostile letters sent to her by repugnant gang leader Artie West (Vic Morrow, in a fun but insubstantial star-making performance that’s imitation Brando), and fellow teacher Mr. Edwards (Richard Kiley) gets frightened out of town when the gang smashes his beloved record collection. Was this public service announcement edgy in 1955? Apparently so—but nowadays it plays out like a pious lecture delivered by middle-aged squares. The absurdity of Blackboard Jungle was taken to its logical conclusion in the 1980s rip-off Class of 1984, where teacher Roddy McDowell lectured his delinquent pupils about the miracle of science at gunpoint. Ford tries hard, but is easily upstaged by the fiery, scene-stealing Poitier. Pauline Kael’s favorite scene was the one in which Poitier baits Ford into calling him a nigger. The scene is sanctimonious liberal bullshit, but Poitier’s acting is scalding hot. If The Blackboard Jungle is worth anything, it’s for bearing witness to a major star in the making.

Image/Sound

The black-and-white transfer looks clean and sharp; the mono sound is clean.

Extras

There's a lively commentary by Paul Mazursky and Jamie Farr (who can be spotted among the film's delinquents), Glenn Ford's son Peter, and assistant director Joel Freeman, though they don't seem to realize how dated this so-called classic has become. The theatrical trailer plays up the controversy. There's also a cartoon parody "Blackboard Jumble."

Overall

Sidney Poitier steals the show in The Blackboard Jungle and makes it a cut above what it is: a holier-than-thou public service announcement. Stay in school, kids!

Image 3.0 out of 5 3.0 out of 5 3.0 out of 5 3.0 out of 5 3.0 out of 5

Sound 3.0 out of 5 3.0 out of 5 3.0 out of 5 3.0 out of 5 3.0 out of 5

Extras 3.0 out of 5 3.0 out of 5 3.0 out of 5 3.0 out of 5 3.0 out of 5

Overall 3.0 out of 5 3.0 out of 5 3.0 out of 5 3.0 out of 5 3.0 out of 5

Specifications
  • DVD-Video
  • Single-Layer Disc
  • Region 1
  • Aspect Ratio
  • 1:33.1 Full Frame
  • Dolby Digital Formats
  • English 1.0 Mono
  • DTS
  • None
  • Subtitles & Captions
  • English Closed Captions
  • English Subtitles
  • Spanish Subtitles
  • Special Features
  • Audio Commentary by Paul Mazursky, Jamie Farr, Peter Ford, and Joel Freeman
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Cartoon Short "Blackboard Jumble"
  • Buy
    DVD
    Release Date
    May 10, 2005
    Distributor
    Warner Home Video
    Runtime
    101 min
    Rating
    NR
    Year
    1955
    Director
    Richard Brooks
    Screenwriter
    Richard Brooks
    Cast
    Glenn Ford, Anne Francis, Louis Calhern, Margaret Hayes, John Hoyt, Richard Kiley, Sidney Poitier, Vic Morrow, Paul Mazursky