Ford, in a typically edgy but likable, effective performance, is a newly returned veteran who takes his first teaching job in an inner-city school. He soons runs afoul of some of his tougher students, who are only hanging around until they are old enough to get jobs. Several story lines run
through the film: Ford's wife (Francis, failing to transcend an ill-conceived part), tries to convince him to find another job; another teacher (Kiley) thinks he can reason with the kids but soon finds out how wrong he is; an aging teacher (Calhern) just wants to survive until he can retire; and a
pretty young teacher (Hayes) is frightened by her new assignment.
Vic Morrow is excellent as the leader of a gang of thugs, as is Poitier in a star-making performance, though at age 31 he unfortunately doesn't convince as a high school student. Future director Paul Mazursky and Jamie Farr (then Jameel Farah) play other students. BLACKBOARD JUNGLE also brought
rock'n'roll to movie audiences with a bang courtesy of Bill Haley and the Comets, who sing "Rock Around the Clock." leave a comment
This searing if somewhat overrated condemnation of juvenile delinquency brought attention to some of the problems afflicting urban high schools and is notable as a reflection of certain 1950s social mores. Rendered in effectively grainy black and white and using violence with
considerable impact, the dutifully sincere screenplay by director Brooks unfortunately substitutes a more upbeat ending for Evan Hunter's original.