Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Explosive Generation, now on DVD

I've twice given brief mention to the 1961 movie The Explosive Generation, starring William Shatner. The last time was on Shatner's 80th birtdhay back in March 2011. I didn't realize then that just a week later, it was going to get a MOD DVD release. It's also airing again on TCM, overnight tonight or early tomorrow morning at 4:00 AM.

Shatner plays Peter Gifford, a high school teacher teaching seniors a class about life skills: what the students are going to do after high school, since college wasn't so common back in those days; and how to make ones way in life. The students start asking him questions about... relationships, with the obvious implication that they want to know about the sex part of the relationship. Or, at least, how far is too far. Even though these are hormone-filled teenagers, they're not asking the sort of questions one would have asked of Dr. Ruth Westheimer a generation later. Shatner figures the best thing to do is to let them ask their questions in the form of anonymous essays.

The parents find out, and are understably unhappy, since they get the impression that their children are going farther than they should, and that Gifford might be encouraging it. So, they start a campaign to get Gifford suspended. The students, meanwhile, like Gifford and feel they can trust him. So when their parents try to get rid of Gifford, they rebel.

It's all very early-1960s stuff. What we think of as the rebellious, upheaval-filled 1960s, is I think really more down to the years after President Kennedy's assassination. So everything here is presented in a fairly tame way. Shatner, for his part, is more than good enough; he was really a capable actor before Star Trek came along. The kids are OK, although their rebellion is portrayed in a rather unrealistic way. The Explosive Generation isn't great by any standard, but it is an interesting time capsule.