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  • Contrary to the lurid poster and title, The Explosive Generation is an enlightened, sensitive, and even-handed treatment of the issues involved in attempting to include a sexual education curriculum in high schools in the early 1960's. William Shatner is sensitive, realistic, gentle, and winning as the teacher trying to his best only to find his words and methods distorted by those with other agendas.

    Patty McCormack (known for the Bad Seed, Kathy O, the Miniskirt Mob, and the Ropers) is quite good as the ingenue made to feel suddenly uncomfortable about her own sexuality in increasingly tense and challenging times. 50's TV fans will enjoy seeing Bud from Father Knows Best (Billy Gray) as one of the students. This is truly worth seeing both as a movie and as a history lesson.
  • tapit19 February 2011
    I didn't expect much when I began watching this movie. By the end, I was completely stunned. Although it's billed as a film about teaching sex education in high school in 1961, it is, in fact, about the pivot point at which the silent generation gave way to the "explosive" boomers- the generation that wouldn't take no for an answer. What could have been filled with cheap platitudes about honesty in education and life, turned out to be a really deep exploration of how and why the generations changed from the 1950s to 1960s. The fact that it was made at the time it was happening and no one could know where this would all lead made it more amazing.
  • This film stars William Shatner as a teacher who teaches class for Seniors on subjects related to graduation and adulthood. However, when he is having a discussion with them, they begin asking about sex and dating. Considering they are graduating soon and many are already 18, the request is pretty reasonable. While the talk never even remotely becomes smutty, when the parents find out about it, the older generation does what every responsible parent would do--they become hysterical and want the teacher's head on a platter! The main thrust (so to speak) of the film is healthy sexuality as well as academic freedom and non-violent resistance.

    What surprised me, however, about this film is that the topic was dealt with very realistically and responsibly. In addition, the kids and especially Shatner did a good job of acting. This really was a shock, as Shatner did NOT talk in his usual staccato voice nor did he overact in the least. While I have loved watching Shatner and his histrionics in such terrible films as IMPULSE, here he has nothing to be ashamed of--his acting (pre-star days) was good.
  • Progressive teacher Peter Gifford (William Shatner) allows the students in his class to write essays about anything they want. Most write about sex and their feelings about it. One student tells her mother, other parents find out, go crazy about their kids talking about sex in school (this WAS 1961) and order the principal (Edward Platt!!!) to fire Gifford. He does but the students led by Bobby (Billy Grey), Dan (Lee Kinsolving) and Janet (Patricia McCormack) decide to fight back. But will they win?

    This film is laughably dated but still is not bad at all. The kids naivety is actually pretty interesting and the parents overreaction is convincing. This could have become a camp classic but competence at every level makes it work. The acting is pretty good--this is before Shatner became full of himself and it's amusing to see McCormack all grown up from "The Bad Seed". However Billy Grey is TERRIBLE in his role. And look for a young Beau Bridges in a few scenes. It's well-written (and based on a true incident) and I really liked how the students fought back in a non-violent fashion. Also well-directed in stark black & white. It also treats the teenagers (and parents) with respect. The ending was a little TOO goody-goody but still worked.

    Worth seeing as a (I think) pretty accurate look at teen life back in 1961. Recommended.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I Just watched " The Explosive Generation" on TCM this morning 7/26/13 and found it to be very significant. It was one of the earliest films to show the younger generation, beginning to protest, and stand up for their rights. It was filmed about 5 or 6 yrs before the Viet Nam War protests etc...And the start of turbulent years 60s-70s. Great cast: William Shatner, Lee Kinsolving, Patty McCormick, Billy Gray and Stephen Dunne.... Thanks to TCM for airing this very good but obscure movie. It was maybe crudely directed, but still very effective. The cast many of whom had TV careers ( Patty Mckormick was on "I Remember Mama", and who can forget her unforgettable performance in "The Bad Seed". William Shatner, became a major star in the "Star Trek" TV series and films. Billy Gray was on "Father Knows Best", for me one of the best sitcom,family shows ever on TV, and he was in the greatest Sci-Fi films ever " The Day The Earth Stood Still" Stephen Dunne was on TV in several series. Sad to hear that Lee Kinsolving passed away at age 39. He was excellent in this film,and others such as " Dark At The Top of The Stairs etc. The film is worth seeing, with a fine cast and bought back many memories for me.
  • Examines an explosive issue honestly from many points of view. Eschews cardboard characters to examine the psychological impact of teenage responsibility. Very even-handed performances all around. The movie is briskly paced from start to finish. Kulik expertly blends emotions and action in a manner reminiscent of "Brian's Song" which he would make 8 years later.
  • This movie refreshes memories from my youth, as well as the times of raising my children. If this were made available in VHS, or DVD format, it could be a great tool for youth, schools, and definitely parents. There are too many times that we have all resorted to shouting, or worse, in an attempt to get our point of view recognized. A young Mr. Shatner (Capt. Kirk) does an excellent job of teaching his class communication. Take the time to watch, listen, and learn... this Old Rebel did. Thank you to all of you that participated in this film.
  • A high school teacher (Wiliam Shatner) gets in trouble when he tries to teach a class in sex education.

    This was the directing debut of Buzz Kulik, who went on to make the cult classic "Bad Ronald" as well as several episodes of "Twilight Zone" (though not, oddly, the ones with William Shatner).

    I had low expectations for this film and only watched it because today was Shatner's 82nd birthday. Seemed like a good time to check out career highlights. And this one is a bit of a stunner.

    For being 1961, which is really more the 1950s than the 1960s, it has a very honest look at sex and the idea that high school teenagers engage in sexual activity. While times have changed and kids today are certainly more "free" than fifty years ago, it is nice to see a film that actually addressed the subject rather than pretending it did not exist.
  • philzfh3 September 2004
    A previous comment wondered whether 21st century sarcasm should be applied to this film...I believe there's genuine enjoyment to watching this vintage film in that manner - the soundtrack alone is truly priceless.

    And you should walk into this story with 21st century cynicism, sneer at the plastic performances and ridiculousness of the script, the scenarios it portrays...because it's only then that the real power of the film - I'm not kidding - comes through. When you're absolutely convinced that this generation and movie couldn't be further from "explosive" you are, with all the others, focused on the moment when our protagonist Janet reveals that which started all the fuss.

    Then, even in this century, could a truth be more plainly and easily revealed to all. I danced to its music (for kicks) and ended astounded at its simple honesty. A great catalyst for discussion, if you can convince folks to relish, then release, their cynicism...
  • chrissch13 June 2001
    Unlike its lurid publicity posters -- which show wanton, defiant delinquents -- The Explosive Generation is a realistic portrayal of the inter-generational tensions that were starting to change American society in the 1960s. The movie is about teens experiencing adult feelings and fears, looking for guidance in a world that still treats them as children, and beginning to demand respect -- and fight for it. The issues are real, the characters are realistic, and William Shatner's sensitive performance is a treat. (He really was a good actor before Star Trek turned him into a blowhard.)
  • William Shatner stars in this B&W classroom drama about the changing mores of the last 50s and early 60s. Released in 1961, this film would ring true to both adult and teenage viewers of the time. Only a few years before, Rebel Without a Cause had set the table for a new teenage paradigm. When we see a convertible full of teenagers speeding dangerously through a town (accentuated by a hand held camera in a trailing vehicle), we immediately recognize the form--a dangerous mix of freedom and rebellion.

    It is in this setting that Shatner, as the young teacher, does his best to teach his students what they really need to know. One student (played by Patty McCormack only a few years after The Bad Seed!) suggests that the most relevant topic is sex, meaning the role of sex in teenage relationships. The newly claimed freedom of teenagers and their rebellion against the values of their parents made sexual behavior a volatile subject. When the parents discover the teacher is "making them" discuss sex, the town is ready to march with pitchforks (with a capital P, that rhymes with T, and that stands for Trouble!).

    Except for the very obvious boom mike hanging over the classroom, I found the production values of this film excellent. The story was interesting. And Shatner doesn't even_talk with his_halting rhythms he became known for.
  • bkoganbing1 December 2014
    The Explosive Generation is a harbinger of things to come. Little did they know about student protests in 1961. The best that kids could come up with as a protest concern is the dismissal of a popular English teacher. This was way before an unpopular war, a slew of assassinations, and the spread of drugs. This was before half of the Sixties was over.

    These kids are as normal a group of Eisenhower era teens as you can find. But when William Shatner asks them about topics they want to discuss in his class and Patty McCormack mentions sex and not in the hygiene manual way it all mushrooms from there.

    The parents of these kids particularly Arch Johnson who is McCormack's father get hysterical when their kids want to discuss grownup topics. When Shatner is canned, the protesters led by McCormack, Lee Kinsolving, Suzi Carnell and Billy Gray get creative in their protest. They would have made the kids who sat in in Columbia later in the decade proud.

    The Explosive Generation isn't exactly atomic in its impact. More like a few pounds of TNT. Still those nostalgic for the era and its music will like it.
  • The aspect of The Explosive Generation which intrigued me most was its realistic portrayal of the issue of sex for teens. Most Hollywood films paint with a broad brush. Kids have sex like rabbits at every turn with absolutely no consequences. This film shows how some kids struggle with their sexual mores and value systems. No easy answers just reality is shown.

    The film's ancillary theme deals with academic freedom vs. parental responsibility and fear. Timidity can be a virtue but it is not a crutch. The teacher, Mr. Gifford, played by William Shatner is not all gung ho about his role as a provocateur but neither is he completely comfortable with his other option which is to break the confidence he has molded with his students. My guess is other teachers have gone through a similar exercise over good judgment and have faired none the better, but, once again, this is not a topic for the Hollywood especially of the day which must resort to topless bimbos and amoral dolts. Not every kid is so willing to toss their values out the window to get `a little action.' There are still plenty of children who believe their future happiness is not predicated on immediate gratification. Ultimately, as the movie seems to state, these are tomorrow's leaders.
  • From the title I was expecting some fluffy 50's style juvenile delinquency. Actually, for folks wishing to bridge the gap between conformist youth 50's style and the rebellious 60's youth, this is a good flick to catch. 50's teacher Shatner is tired of processing his high school classes into dull adult conformity. So, he tries one day to get them to discuss topics that interest them apart from the settled curriculum. It just so happens that many of the kids attended an all-night stay-over at a beach house where many boy-girl things happened. Thus sex is upper-most for many, even though that's not fit subject matter outside of hygiene class. Still, teacher Shatner wants to fudge precedent and thus has them write about their concerns. However, one thing leads to another and the innovative-minded teacher's job is jeopardized once parents learn of the assignment and take their traditionalist concerns to the principal. Things reach a climax when the kids, hungering for treatment of their personal issues, react to Shatner's dismissal.

    In many ways the script confronts the cultural conformity of the 50's with issues simmering beneath the outward calm. Among them-- education is more than simply preparing students for adult-level jobs; sex is as much a personal issue as a parental one; pressure to conform is reinforced by profits at the business level (Dunne's used car lot); real reform only comes about through mass action.

    There may be more, but these are issues brought to the fore by what amounts to a daring script for its time (1961). It's also revealing that the movie was produced by independents and not a big studio. Anyway, the acting is skillfully unmannered and doesn't overshadow the important topics, while the staging uses location shots rather than studio sets giving the results a better sense of realism, even though I found the upshot to be a little too "Hollywood". All in all, the movie may be obscure; still, the 90-minutes reflects a significant undercurrent in the evolution of modern American culture. After all, Vietnam may have triggered the youth explosion, but the fuse was smoldering long before as the movie providentially suggests.
  • Truly rank addition to the rebellious-kids-on-campus genre. Buzz Kulik, usually a solid director with a tight sense of pacing, does uncharacteristically sloppy and stilted work here, and the film (distributed by United Artists!) looks like an amateur project. William Shatner, in natty suits and ties (and neat little streaks in his hair), plays high school teacher to wealthy, beach front-living students who appear to have the same problems as every other teenager: stifled under the thumb of strict, demanding parents, they are overly eager to express their opinions without regard for the consequences. While planning for an anonymous survey about life's generalities, teacher Shatner is prompted by the kids into adding 'sex' to the list of topics; once this leaks out to the PTA moms, however, Shatner's job is on the line. These kids (some of whom look old enough to be on the faculty, including a hardened, dead-eyed Billy Gray) are some of the most polite teen rebels of the '60s. They take a united stand on refusing to conform to the school's rules, but when their unofficial leader tells them what to do, they move like sheep. Nobody is shown to have independent ideas or thoughts--they're like left-overs from the Body Snatchers. They also clam up whenever principal Edward Platt barges into the classroom. Some familiar faces in the cast hardly make the picture watchable; it doesn't seem to represent any era, much less its own. The idea of a teen "sex survey" causing an uproar amongst prudish parents is still relevant today (rather sadly), but what's done with the material here is the real crime. Everything is trivialized, sterilized, and neutered. * from ****
  • Warning: Spoilers
    It was an explosive generation alright but the explosion was yet to come. This is a high-school class of Baby Boomers in 1961 who are coming to realize that they can made demands on authority figures and win. No guns yet. Just a general strike by the students and then the silent treatment in every class.

    What are the students demanding? They want to ask "relevant" questions of one of their more accommodating teachers, a handsome young William Shatner. Shatner, in response to students' anxious questions in class, has had them write about their sexual feelings and their emotions. "Sex education!", some parent cries. The rumors spread that Shatner is teaching them things that only parents should pass on to their kids. In cute, blond Patty McCormack's case, she and her boyfriend are deeply in love, but should she go "all the way"? She confesses to being tempted. On the other hand, propriety requires that the couple done get past first or second base. I never understood what the baseball metaphor worked out to in real life, although I can guess at the meaning of "home run." There is a movement afoot in some of the United States to return to the values of yesteryear and delete sex education or anything like it from the high school curriculum. And it makes sense. Sixteen- and seventeen-year-old kids know nothing at all about sex. They don't know what goes where. I'm all for kids being deprive of sex at that age but only out of spite, because it was so difficult for my generation.

    It's a TV-style movie with flat lighting, unimaginative settings, non-actors in major roles, and an unbelievable solidarity among the students, all of whom look alike -- white, prim, proper -- except for one guy who looks like an Indian.

    Yet, perhaps unwittingly, it's not as stupid and exploitative as it was intended to be. It illustrates Karl Marx's argument that progress is achieved only when "false consciousness" ("It's all my fault") is replaces by "class consciousness ("It's the system's fault and we can overcome it by sticking together").

    It's also an illustration of the ongoing transfer of jobs from the primary institutions, like the family, to secondary institutions like schools and medical corporations. I'll give you a personal example. An old man, my grandfather, would soak his feet and somebody -- namely me -- would have to trim his toenails because he couldn't reach them. When my mother reached the same age, a podiatrist paid by the insurance company visited the house and trimmed her nails every few weeks.

    Shatner doesn't ham it up. I like him just as much now when he's got the faucet turned on full blast and overacts bombastically. Patty McCormack is a cute teen but Hollwyood was full of cute teens. There is only the faintest echo of her pre-pubescent maniac in "The Bad Seed." Stephen Dunne is a likable character, a pragmatist, as the father of one of the boys. He and the other parents, as well as the principal, Edward Platt, are given their due as people of principle who are all a little befuddled by what's going on with the kids.

    Just wait until 1968 rolls around.