The Blackboard Jungle [DVD] [1955]

Richard Brooks' Blackboard Jungle (1955) never had a distinguished history on laserdisc (it wasn't even letterboxed, if this reviewer recalls correctly), but it's been given first-class treatment on DVD from Warner Home Video. In addition to a sparkling letterboxed (1.85:1) transfer, the producers have included a delightful and informative commentary track featuring Jamie Farr (who made his screen debut in this movie), Paul Mazursky (also in the movie), star Glenn Ford's son Peter Ford, and assistant director Joel Freeman, who engage in a dazzling, funny, touching, and perceptive talk across the length of the movie. Each participant makes an equal contribution, and their talk tells us a lot about a period in the business that isn't much discussed, in which filmmakers like Brooks (directing his first movie here) were looking to New York actors and reshaping the image of established leading men like Glenn Ford (who had his hair cut short here and never grew it back) in order to give viewers something new. (Even this reviewer wasn't aware of the full measure of controversy surrounding the film, which -- among other concessions -- had to have a scene added depicting a well-behaved suburban school, shot on the last day of production.) That bonus feature is worth the price of the disc by itself, and one only wishes that this could have been done ten years ago or thereabouts, so that Glenn Ford himself -- who turned 88 in May of 2005 -- could have participated. The 28 chapters are more than adequate to break down this plot, and the audio has been mastered good and loud. Along with the original trailer and the commentary track, the bonus features include the MGM "Droopy" cartoon Blackboard Jumble (which is in color and Cinemascope). There's also an optional French audio track and English, Spanish, and French subtitles. The disc opens on a simple and practical dual-layer menu, with the special features easily accessible.
$13.99
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Overview

Special Features

  • Commentary by co-stars Paul Mazursky and Jamie Farr, Glenn Ford's son Peter Ford, and assistant director Joel Freeman
  • Droopy cartoon "Blackboard Jumble"
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Closed Captioned

Synopsis

Blackboard Jungle
In this gritty urban drama, war veteran Richard Dadier (Glenn Ford) wants to begin his career as a teacher and is given an assignment at a boys high school in inner-city New York. However, he soon discovers the school is overrun by delinquents, led by Artie West (Vic Morrow), an insolent hood who likes to call Richard "Mr. Daddy-O." Artie and his gang steal, destroy property, refuse to respect authority, and threaten the female teachers with rape. While most of the faculty have given up and meekly let the delinquents do what they want, Dadier is determined to bring order back to his classroom, even after Artie's thugs threaten Richard's pregnant wife. Keep your eyes peeled for a bit part by Jameel Farah, years before he would change his name to Jamie Farr. Blackboard Jungle was also the first major studio film to use rock & roll on the soundtrack; the film's success kick-started sales of "Rock Around the Clock" by Bill Haley & His Comets, which helped to spark the rock & roll boom of the 1950s. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

Cast & Crew

  • Glenn Ford
    Glenn Ford - Richard Dadier
  • Sidney Poitier
    Sidney Poitier - Gregory W. Miller
  • Anne Francis
    Anne Francis - Anne Dadier
  • Louis Calhern
    Louis Calhern - Jim Murdock
  • Vic Morrow
    Vic Morrow - Artie West
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