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The Strange One

The Strange One(1957)

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  • the strange one

    • kevin sellers
    • 11/16/15

    A disappointing film, especially considering the excellent performances from three great actors at the dawn of their careers; Ben Gazzara, Pat Hingle, and George Peppard. Big problem was Calder Willingham's adaptation of his novel. Basically, the first half of act 3 is missing. I mean, at one point you've got Peppard as the lone cadet with the cojones to end Gazzara's reign of terror at a Southern military institute. He's trying to enlist the help of Hingle and two other cadets. Then, in the VERY NEXT SCENE, you've got the ENTIRE SCHOOL against Gazzara, with no explanation other than they didn't like Gazzara's getting a popular major fired. And since this major's popularity with the cadets has never been mentioned, let alone a scene provided where the cadets learn about the major's firing and are upset, this explanation seems quite feeble, to mention nothing of undramatic. So we are left with twenty minutes of Gazzara being humiliated, which is ok, except that it comes out of left field and thus lacks any credibility. Add to this serious writing problem a couple of over the top, caricatured performances by Arthur Storch and Paul E. Richards as nerdy cadets and you've got to give this film a C. P.S. The last scene is interesting, huh? As a final punishment, the cadets dump Gazzara in the Jim Crow section of a train. So, even though the scourge of Gazzara's bullying has been overcome, the bigger evil of racism has not. Wonder if Willingham or director Jack Garfein intended to convey this thought? Somehow, I doubt it. After all, this film was made in 1957 and Willingham was an Alabama native, who never showed any particular sensitivity to racial problems in his novels. I think he was just trying to add one more insult to the odious Gazzara. I sure wish Robert Osborne had asked Garfein about this.

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