Boy in Court (film #6 on Our Secret Century, Vol. 5: Teenage Transgression CD-ROM (Voyager). Also, film #138 on Prelinger Archive. Also, track #3 on Teenage Confidential (Rhino, 1987)). [Category: Public Service]

This optimistic 1940s film tries to convince us that enlightened, compassionate juvenile court systems can be more effective in reforming young offenders than punitive courts. 15-year-old gang member Johnny participates in a gang car theft, but is the only one caught. A kindly judges sentences him to probation, assigning to his case a compassionate probation officer who sets about getting social services for Johnny's poverty-stricken family, getting Johnny to go to church, and interesting the boy in aviation. By the end of the film, Johnny is a thoroughly clean-cut upright young man, who admits to the judge that stealing a car is "pretty dumb". Although it has some valid points, this film is incredibly simplistic in its portrayal of the causes and solutions to juvenile delinquency. It leaves you both wondering if any court system was that compassionate (Johnny's probation officer appears to have no other cases in his load), and if such treatment would really be very effective against hardened youth-gang members. Naive, and therefore fairly campy.

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ****.

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