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EXPLOSIVE GENERATION, THE (director: Buzz Kulik; screenwriter: Joseph Landon; cinematographer: Floyd Crosby; editor: Melvin Shapiro; music: Hal Borne; cast: William Shatner (Peter Gifford), Edward Platt (Mr. Morton), Lee Kinsolving (Dan Carlyle), Suzi Carnell (Marge Ryker), Patty McCormack (Janet Sommers), Billy Gray (Bobby Herman Jr.), Virginia Field (Mrs. Sommers), Bobby Herman Sr. (Steve Dunne) Phillip Terry (Mr. Carlyle); Runtime: 89; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Stanley Colbert; United Artists; 1961)
“William Shatner’s first big role is in this low-budget youth film.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

William Shatner’s first big role is in this low-budget youth film, one that’s based on a true-story. It’s a relic socially conscious drama about the generation gap. The youth rebellion film is about a high school students’ strike for freedom of speech. It’s directed by veteran TV director Buzz Kulik (“Warning Shot”/”Riot”/”Sergeant Ryker”) with an attempt to keep things civilized and is written by Joseph Landon, who provides the stiff dialogue for all the teen speeches (providing unintentional comedy for its hipster viewers).

Peter Gifford (William Shatner) is a young progressive teacher in a white suburban high school in California, who tries to engage his “Senior Problems” clean-cut senior class in a conversation about the responsibilities of young adults about to graduate and finds the students wish to openly discuss peer pressure in regards to sex. Teach has the class write an anonymous composition about ‘how they feel about sex’ and says they’ll discuss it on Monday. But uptight Marge Ryker (Suzi Carnell) blabs to her parents, who go ballistic when they also learn that their daughter spent the night alone in a beach house with boyfriend Bobby Herman Jr. (Billy Gray) and her best friend Janet Sommers (Patty McCormack) and her basketball star steady Dan Carlyle (Lee Kinsolving). Also, it’s learned the girls lied and said they were spending the evening in each other’s house.

Teach gets suspended for continuing the lesson when the conservative principal (Edward Platt) made him apologize to the parents and say the lesson won’t be taught. This gets the students aroused and it leads to a “silence strike” at the big high school basketball game in a display of student solidarity in support of their teacher. When the concerned parents learn their girls didn’t do the nasty, everything returns to normal with the teach restored to duty.

The film clears up the controversial subject of sex among teens as well as a fog clears up the view in San Francisco. But to its credit, it never turns into a trashy exploitation flick. It just sits there and never gets tired of patting itself on the back for taking sides with the students in the battle for academic freedom, even though it doesn’t have much to say that matters (only that silence is indeed golden) and it worms its way out of controversy by breathing a sigh of relief that the virgin girls in question didn’t do the nasty.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”