Werth: While everyone else is gearing up for the Memorial Day Weekend, I’m studying for college finals. And they can’t happen soon enough.
Wise: Max Steiner must have been appalled.
Werth: Bill Hailey and the Comets’ “Rock Around the Clock” shot to number one, and legend has it that teenagers tore up movie theaters across the country. Director Richard Brooks uses the song as a rough, musical symbol of a young generation lashing out at a society obsessed with conformity. He shot Blackboard in dark tones with low lighting and sparse studio sets, cleverly neglecting to mention which city it was set in to remind us this failing high school could be anywhere. There are no great cinematic flourishes here as Brooks went instead for raw, emotional intensity. The scenes of violence (including an attempted rape in a library) are remorseless, bloody and ugly.
Wise: Having pipe dreams about inner city youth seems like it might get you into trouble.
Wise: Sort of like, Guess Who’s Coming to Detention?
Werth: Blackboard Jungle may seem a little dated with it’s “Daddy-o’s” and use of the word “stinkin’” instead of another word that ends with a ‘k’, but the issues of social inequality, racism and impenetrable bureaucracy in our schools are as topical today as they were when juvenile delinquents threatened the ‘50’s American Way. And where else will you see an early walk-on from Richard Deacon (Mel Cooley from the Dick Van Dyke Show) and a very young Jamie Farr (Klinger of M.A.S.H fame) as a constantly-grinning hoodlum?
Werth: It probably helped that Russell was a devout Catholic—or as biographers like to say, “deeply religious.”
Werth: Jesse Tyler Ferguson is very witty.