Boy with a Knife (film #238 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Public Service]

Chuck Connors plays a social worker who helps a group of troubled, potentially delinquent boys by forming them into a club at a youth center. The "boy with a knife" is Jerry, a kid with a bitchy stepmother and a wimpy father who won't stand up to her verbal diatribes against him. Jerry takes out his rage by periodically threatening other kids with a knife, when he's not using it to carve up other people's property. When he finds out through the grapevine that his stepmother is planning to send him away to live with his grandmother, he takes out his rage by carving up all the sofa cushions into ribbons. Somehow, this makes his dad finally stand up to his stepmom. "Jerry's not going anywhere," he says to her and this totally cures Jerry of his rage––he immediately goes outside and turns over his knife to Chuck. This is a well-intentioned film that makes a few valid points about delinquency, but mostly it's incredibly simplistic and cliched. Most realistic is how much time and patience it takes for Chuck to win the boys' trust, and how fragile that trust continues to be. Least realistic is the story about Jerry, especially the ending. Jerry has the classical cliched Hollywood Freudian version of a dysfunctional family––bitchy stepmom, wimpy dad who doesn't wear the pants in the family (though the actress playing the stepmom does do an excellent job of making you hate her). The ending is laughably pat and unrealistic––in any real situation like this, you just know that carving up the sofa cushions is just the thing that will get Jerry sent away, and probably to a place a lot worse than his grandmother's. And, of course, there's an instant cure––maybe the filmmakers were just running out of time after all the long sequences of Chuck's trust-building attempts. It all ends up being maddeningly unsatisfying––you want to like the film for its intentions, but it's just too much of a fantasy. For a much more realistic look at the problem of deliquency, and the "club" solution, see Ask Me, Don't Tell Me.

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

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