There have been several short films made in the history of cinema. One of them that stands out is Scared Straight! by Arnold Shapiro. Peter Falk handled the narration of this movie. At the core the movie is a documentary whose plot revolves around a clandestine group of teenagers who choose criminal professions. The ill-feeling that these group of youngsters holds towards the government and their inclination to become anti-social elements is portrayed through an interview at the start of the film. They discuss their personal exploits in disgusting detail revealing how they stole, extorted and molested woman as a bunch of goons.
The boys are being held at Rahway State detention facility and the movie is also shot there. The truth about prison life, all the fights, the parallel government that runs inside, the lack of value for lives of men and the way newcomers are treated is vividly portrayed. It is an honest representation of how you got to fall in line when in prison or face the consequences of your mistakes which are extremely harsh in relation to your faults.
This film was among the first to be broadcasted on TV in the uncensored format. The word Fuck was not censored in this movie and then became common among the audiences of the time. Mikie C played the role of a drug dealer, Jerome Watts portrayed a street gang member, Jon Shipiro put in his part as a bomb maker and Carlo Gallo pulled off a master act as the son of a mafia informant. Also lesser known roles were that of a car thief and a market dealer.
Less eminent roles included those of a thief and black market dealer. The ending part of the film is quite dramatic with the teenagers aghast with the harsh world that they have been thrown into and wishing to change to become better human beings and live a life that is useful to society.
The hard work and honesty that the director showed while bringing such a sensitive topic to the notice of the audience was much appreciated. Many critics applauded the effort while there were some that felt the handling of the topic was distasteful. Nevertheless the movie went on to win the 1976 Academy award for Best Documentary Feature. The documentary also ended up winning two Emmys under separate categories in the same year.
Several critics however showered accolades upon the director for his honest portrayal of the brutal realities of leading a criminal life and called it as a lesson to all those wayward youngsters who ought to learn to blend in to society.
It was a landmark in film making that a film on such a sensitive topic was not just envisioned but made, acclaimed and released uncensored to a vast audience. However, the message of the movie was not completely received by the audience. The unfortunate result of this was that the people started becoming more violent and showed increasing tendencies towards criminal behavior.
However the fact remains that even 32 years of its release, this movie still remains to be a top classic thriller. Its magic is not lost over the audience even today, and although it did not inspire the right kind of feelings, although the message that the director wanted to deliver was probably lost, his effort in making a film with such a bold storyline is appreciated even today and so is his honesty at presenting the facts as they were.
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APA Style Citation:
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