The Explosive Generation (1961)

The Explosive Generation
Directed by Buzz Kulik
Written by Joseph Landon
1961/USA
Vega Productions
First viewing/Amazon Prime

 

Mrs. Katie Sommers: What do you mean “prove” your love?

Janet Sommers: Well if you don’t know, maybe you’d better ask DAD!

 

I was pleasantly surprised in the variety of ideas explored in what looks suspiciously like a straight exploitation flick from the poster.

English teacher Peter Giffort (William Shatner) “gets” teenagers and has been selected to teach the “Senior Problems” course designed to prepare graduating teens for “real life”. The discussion turns to problems seniors are experiencing in their current lives and Janet (Patty MacCormack) suggests that the number one problem is “sex”.  There is kind of a mixed reaction to discussing this but Giffort invites anyone interested to write a paper explaining their problem.

Janet’s own problem stems from an unauthorized and unchaperoned over-nighter spent by her and a girlfriend with their boyfriends at a beach cottage owned by one of the guy’s fathers.

The boys are none to happy that Janet may have spilled their secrets.  But in the meantime, the parents get wind of Giffort’s intentions, misconstrue and magnify the intent, and end up protesting to the principal.  All the principal wants is peace and he even gets Giffort to apologize.  Then the students take matters into their own hands and a youth movement is born.

I expected nothing from this sex ed movie and it actually kept my interest the whole way through.  This little movie sort of shows the birth of the youth culture that would contribute to the burgeoning civil-rights movement and lead to the anti-war movement and hippie culture by the end of the decade.

Montage of clips (spot an early performance from Beau Bridges!)

The Young Savages (1961)

The Young Savages
Directed by John Frankenheimer
Written by Edward Anhalt and J.P. Miller from a novel by Evan Hunter
1961/USA
Contemporary Productions
First viewing/Netflix rental

 

Dear kindly Sergeant Krupke, / You gotta understand, / It’s just our bringin’ up-ke / That gets us out of hand./ Our mothers all are junkies, / Our fathers all are drunks./ Golly Moses, natcherly we’re punks! – “Gee, Officer Krupke” from West Side Story, lyrics by Steven Sondheim

 

This A-list juvenile delinquent drama can’t quite decide what it wants to be.

A turf was has broken out in East Harlem between the Thunderbirds, an Italian gang, and the Horsemen, a Puerto Rican gang.  As the story begins, three Thunderbirds are seen walking purposefully through town en route to brutally killing a blind Puerto Rican teen who had been sitting on his front stoop playing the harmonica with other family members.

DA Dan Cole thinks the aggressive prosecution and conviction of the boys for first degree murder will be a valuable campaign asset.  Assistant DA Hank Bell is enthusiastic about taking the case but must disclose that he had a teenage romance with the Mary, the mother of one of the boys (Shelley Winters).  Bell’s wife (Dina Merrill) sees something sordid in making the case political and in seeking the death penalty for offenders so young.

Mary is certain that her boy could not have participated in the killing and Bell goes out to personally investigate the crime, along with the circumstances of the accused and the victims.  None of it makes a pretty picture.  An eventful trial ensues.

This film ticks all the boxes for an early sixties social drama with its focus on political corruption and misunderstood youth.  I thought the message was muddied, however.  The movie never really decides how it feels about these boys.  The acting is solid, if not spectacular.

Promo