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Blackboard Jungle(Laser)A-,B+

MGM-UA/1955/101m/FS 1.33 B&W

      This hard hitting drama from director Richard Brooks deals with the problem of violence in inner city schools. Made in 1955, it lays much of the blame(in a introductory prologue)on the war years and the break up of the traditional family, leaving youths unsupervised by parents since while men were away fighting the war, women were forced to leave the home for work. Of course, today the family has become even more fragmented. Most households depend on two working members for economic survival, and yes, we are still faced with violence in the schools.
     The message of Blackboard Jungle is still pertinent today. While the easy route may be to turn our backs on the problems that exist in the schools, that certainly will not make them go away. Richard Dadier, the idealistic protagonist of Blackboard Jungle, is a dedicated teacher who finds himself thrust into an impossible situation: how can he combat the despicable violence that exists and lack of interest by the staff in the school at which he finds a job. Dadier faces physical abuse, mental pounding and self doubt, but in the end, he somehow manages to get through to these alienated youths and his triumph is a sign of hope for a resolution to the problem.
     The black and white movie is filmed with little artifice. It’s technique is in your face, just as the students are in Dadier’s face. Brooks lends an almost documentary feel to his story. Nothing is wasted in extraneous exposition. Brooks keeps focused on the heart of the matter, the students and Dadier. The storytelling’s flow is extremely fast and effective.
     Glenn Ford turns in a sterling performance as Dadier. Ford easily embodies the spirit of the idealist. The mixed emotions that are roiling in him are evident on the screen, and despite the powerful emotional content of the role, Ford manages to impart a relaxed physicality to Dadier. Blackboard Jungle represents the best of Ford’s work.
     Director Brooks works beautifully with his actors. Sidney Poitier, captures the frustration of an intelligent black youth with remarkable clarity. A young Vic Morrow, displays the venom of alienation in its ugliest form, slithering through his role as the gang leader. Richard Kiley and Louis Calhern are likewise excellent under Brooks’ baton.
     The film uses music well to embellish its themes. It introduced Bill Haley’s "Rock Around the Clock" to the world and Haley’s rock and roll beat along with the phrase "Dadio" that the students demeaningly call Dadier, were latched onto to a by an emerging youth culture of black leather jackets and tee-shirts with rolled up sleeves. It juxtaposes the soulful sounds of jazz, lovingly treasured by teacher Josh Edwards(Kiley)with the harsher realities of the street.
     Blackboard Jungle still manages a contemporary feel and the disc looks fresh enough to preserve that outlook. There is very little deterioration to the transfer print and the levels of contrast are excellent. This is good looking disc with sharp images and minor grain. The soundtrack is handled in a vital manner.