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Wednesday, January 7, 2015

"Up the Down Staircase" (1967)

It's a plot that never fails: a callow school teacher enters their first job with high idealistic hopes of shaping young minds, but they run head long into belligerent students and apathetic faculty. Somehow they pour their heart and soul into the calling and win over the whole school (see "Goodbye, Mr. Chips", "The Blackboard Jungle", "To Sir With Love", etc). The twist in this fine entry is that it's a young female English teacher, Sandy Dennis doing her patented Method-Acting winsomeness, all mumbles and hesitant stuttering. She's the fish out of water in a tough, dirty inner city NY high school. Episodic with all the clich├ęs in tact (a gym dance, the sad quiet student, the class clown, the ugly duckling, a flirtation with a handsome teacher, the inevitable pulled switchblade), the best reason to see it is the Time Capsule peek into that simpler time. No smartphones, laptops, or internet to be found in the mid-'60s, unbelievable how teachers taught with only a book, a piece of chalk and a blackboard. 

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