Blackboard Jungle is a 1955 social commentary film about teachers in an interracial inner-city school, directed by Richard Brooks, based on the novel The Blackboard Jungle by Evan Hunter. The film stars Glenn Ford, Sidney Poitier, Vic Morrow, Anne Francis and Louis Calhern. This is the breakout role for Poitier.

The film follows the story of Richard Dadier (Ford), a new teacher at North Manuel Trades High School, an inner-city school of a wide range of ethnic backgrounds where many of the students, led by student Gregory Miller (Poitier), frequently take part in anti social and rebellious behavior.

Though this film takes place in the mid 50s, it is still very much relevant today, as there are still an alarming amount of troubled youth today and still many functioning alternative schools across the country. This film, though fictional, shows how life in an alternative school for boys was back then and can be compared to today’s schools and troubled teen boys. It is educational, even without being factual. Every single lead star is equally great in their roles. This movie is known for its clever use of rock and roll in its soundtrack and for the unusual breakout of an African American cast member, the future Oscar and Golden Globe winner, Sidney Poitier.

This film along with Rebel Without a Cause are two of the greatest movies depicting troubled teenage boys. Adults try to help them, but they refuse it and won’t even help themselves. In Blackboard, just like in Rebel, the boys eventually see the light and realize they can’t go on living their lives the way have been and do try to better themselves. In this movie, it’s an entire school of troubled kids. It’s the students, versus the teachers, and at first, the pupils win, but eventually the teachers win, showing the kids who’s boss and how to better themselves, their lives and their family and friends’ lives as well. They are taught life skills, as well as regular subjects and trades like woodworking.

Many other films have been compared to or inspired by this one, like: Less Than Zero (1987), High School Confidential! (1958), The Outsiders (1983) and Rock and Roll High School (1979). But this classic will always be a moving depiction of difficult, rebellious and violent teen boys, regardless of its time period. It is one that every teen (boy or girl) should watch in high school or college.

Before watching this movie and hearing Bill Haley & His Comets’ “Rock Around the Clock,” you might have thought of a 1950s sock hop with poodle skirts and black leather jackets, not boys in an inner city school. But this song has become an iconic 1950s sock song, as well as being this film’s theme.

This film is a bit violent at times, a tad slow at other times, but eventually inspiring, eye opening and educational. Every teacher, teenager and film lover needs to watch this one at least once in their life. 18+ 4/5

One thought on “Classic of the Week: Blackboard Jungle (1955)

  1. Watched this about 10 years ago in university. Tense film. In these most strange times, writing and reading is the best distraction. My latest review. Welcome to follow for more coming up and more already up. monthlycritic.wordpress.com/2020/03/20/the-invisible-man/

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