Bless the Beasts & Children (1971)
October 24, 2022 2:27 PM - Subscribe

A group of social misfits at a summer camp for boys run away to save penned-in buffaloes from a rifle club's slaughter.

Based on the novel by Glendon Swarthout.

Trigger warning for footage of bison being shot.
posted by 2N2222 (6 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Free on Tubi right now. For rental on several places, too. JustWatch listing.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 2:39 PM on October 24, 2022

I hadn't seen this one in a very long time, and what it's lost in credibility, it's gained in time capsule charm. As bizarre a coming of age movie can be, it plays well hamfisted almost the entire running time, with very familiar maudlin music to anyone who grew up in the era. Director Stanley Kramer was pretty well respected and had a knack for message movies. Bless the Beasts seems to lose focus for most of it length, and at times feels like an afterschool special version of Easy Rider or Billy Jack.

Six misfit boys share a cabin for the lowest rung at an Arizona summer camp. Dubbed the "Bedwetters" at camp, they are treated with a good deal of cruelty by virtually everyone, including every adult they happen to cross paths. Scattered throughout are flashbacks of their lives before camp, which are often both cartoon-y and disturbing. Their performances are completely mixed, from sympathetic and believable to awkward and gross, all within seconds. Mostly from the performance of Barry Robins as "Cotton", the leader of the six, who, in his mid 20s, looks a little odd playing a 16 year old and walking around in a G.I. helmet. Cotton's character seems almost dangerously unstable... or laughably hammy. I can't decide.

Even "Teft", the bad kid, played by Bill Mumy, exhibits more stability, as a car stealing, lock picking rebellious punk.

Brothers, Lally 1 and Lally 2 are comically (I think) antagonistic with each other. The elder brother is openly hostile to his younger sibling, yet displays a weird vulnerability to him, while the younger has an inexplicably mature demeanor despite being notably younger and carrying around a charred security pillow. The pillow being charred in a flashback sequence that's funny and horrifying.

Shecker (Miles Chapin) seems the least outcast of the bunch, being the son of a successful Las Vegas comic entertainer, played by longtime character actor Jesse White. He seems to have a knack for humor like his dad, but is dragged by his weight and for flubbing the lines at his Bar Mitzva.

And finally Goodenow, the most vulnerable of the lot, a small blond haired boy tormented for being a bedwetter and a "fairy". Cotton is endearingly kind to Goodenow.

Despite all its flaws, the movie is entertaining and weird enough that I find it entertaining.
posted by 2N2222 at 3:40 PM on October 24, 2022

TW for bison being shot? Did you watch til the end?!?
posted by whuppy at 12:47 PM on October 25, 2022

I don’t think I’ve seen this movie, but read the book in I guess 8th grade; “My Little Town” was a big hit that must have been playing whenever I was reading this, since the two are inextricably linked in my mind. I hear the song, I think of the book.
posted by chazlarson at 6:34 PM on October 25, 2022

This was a favorite when it was released. When I was 10 😳
posted by billsaysthis at 9:21 PM on October 26, 2022

I had to read the book and watch the movie in high school, and I found it disturbing and sad. I mentally file it under "traumatic media" and stay away.
posted by PussKillian at 11:36 AM on October 27, 2022 [1 favorite]

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