Friday, April 13, 2012

The Cross and the Switchblade (1970)

Made by a group of people whom, one fears, believed their story could help change the world, this silly Christian drama depicts a saintly layperson whose goodness and perseverance transform various hard-luck cases in a gang-ridden section of New York City. Pat Boone, the Bible-thumping crooner who achieved fame with his clean-cut movies and songs in the ’50s, plays David Wilkerson, a Midwestern do-gooder whose parish takes up a collection to pay his way to the Big Apple so he can intervene on behalf of street kids caught up in gang violence. Absurdly na├»ve and square, David zeroes in on Nicky Cruz (Erik Estrada), the hot-tempered boss of a Latino gang, as well as Nicky’s troubled squeeze, Rosa (Jacqueline Giroux). David presents himself to these two and their cohorts, repeatedly delivering the message that, “Someone loves you, and his name is Jesus Christ.” Nicky responds by brandishing a switchblade and threatening to cut David unless he goes away. Instead, Our Intrepid Hero finds a place to stay with local Christians, and then spends day after day giving street-corner sermons and offering comfort to gang members who come to him about various crises. Meanwhile, a turf war brews between Nicky’s crew and an African-American gang. As he tries to defuse this explosive situation, David somehow manages to persuade Rosa to give up both heroin and prostitution, so the example of her “salvation” changes Nicky’s mind. In the movie’s goofy climax, David stages a revival meeting and invites the warring gangs to attend, but before the event devolves into a bloodbath, Nicky announces that he’s found Jesus and wishes to renounce violence. (During Nicky’s epiphany, special effects depict a luminous cross appearing over Boone’s head, and background singers coo the words, “God loves Nicky Cruz!”) The leader of the black gang says volumes by watching this spectacle and then announcing, “Wow, man, I really don’t dig this scene tonight at all.” Sensible viewers will have the same reaction to The Cross and the Switchblade, which combines amateurish acting, ham-fisted writing, and perfunctory direction into nearly two hours of drab sermonizing inspired by the experiences of the real-life Wilkerson.

The Cross and the Switchblade: LAME


Mike Bennett Graphics said...

Check your facts...
The Cross and the Switchblade was a true story about a preacher named David Wilkerson. You said he was a priest, and you called him "father David", but he was never a priest, and he was never called "father" either in real life or in the movie because he was a protestant, not a Roman Catholic.

David Wilkerson passed away in 2011.

Nicky Cruz is still alive. He became a minister and is still in ministry.

By Peter Hanson said...

Thanks for bringing the error to my attention. All fixed. Still don't care for the film, but I'm glad the factual representations are accurate now.

Unknown said...

Hello Pete,

This is actually a part of my project. We were asked to compare how it is in the book and how it is in the movie. I understand that this is religious flick (my theology class). I was able to watch the movie here : The Cross and the Switchblade (1970) but i still need to compare it with the book. Do you happen to know where i could get a PDF copy of the book please?


Mike Bennett Graphics said...

You wrap up your review with the words "ham fisted" ...funny, but those honestly are the very same words I was thinking while reading your in "Wow! This review is VERY ham fisted!"
Peter, if you are willing to be honest and transparent about it, your problem with this film is not just in its production quality, but you very clearly have a problem with its Christian message. From reading your review, one might conclude that in truth, you find the message more offensive than the movie!
Can you share why you have such a problem with Christianity?

Mike Bennett Graphics said...

I'm guessing that this is well past your due date, so I apologize, but I only just read your message now. Have you checked your local public library...or some area churches? Many churches maintain a book library and may be willing to loan it to you.