(1947, Educational/Short, b&w)
Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy
The stalking is coming easy to me now.
In a nutshell:
Can’t fit in at school? Put on a sweater and start stalking!
Try as he might, Phil (Dick York) can’t seem to make friends at his new school. After a particularly frustrating and isolated day, he solders ham radio parts in his basement while complaining that his classmates don’t like his clothes or his strange, out-of-town manners. His overly cheerful father advises him to observe his classmates so that he may better dress and behave as they do.
Heeding his father’s advice, Phil goes to school the next day in a sweater instead of his customary three-piece suit. He follows his classmates around and is astonished at how they listen to one another, occasionally offering help to fellow classmates in need. Phil tries to work up his courage to listen and help like his classmates do, but has to be corralled into attending an after-school party by an aggressively friendly classmate before he finally finds his opportunity. Overhearing a couple of guys with a particularly knotty ham radio problem, he saunters over to offer his expertise. Soon, dozens of students of both genders are flocking to his basement workroom to guzzle Coke and marvel at his many shapeless masses of wire.
This is our second short from 1947 to address the burning issue of teenage popularity. It is also the second Teen-Popularity-Short-of-1947 to get the issue exactly wrong. Wrong in the exact same way, in fact, suggesting that the excesses of the sixties might have been prevented if only the adults of the forties and fifties had bothered to pay attention. This is not to say that the advice is bad. Listening to people and offering assistance are good starting points for any teen with an interest in becoming a decent human being. Let us consider this a desirable Point B. Point A’s “Follow the popular kids and do what they do” won’t get you there. Oh, it’ll get you popular, at least peripherally, but anyone who’s ever been to high school can tell you that the popular kids don’t wear sweaters and sing Kum-bah-yah.
The short itself is a lot of fun, owing in no small part to a very young and Tobey Maguire-ish Dick York. While Phil’s voice-over wonders if “listening” is the secret to his classmates’ success, Mike says, “The only way to know for sure is to kidnap them and steal their essence.” While he wonders if he ought to “listen” too, Kevin says, “Nah, I’m more of a Read-Catcher-in-the-Rye-and-Plot-My-Revenge kind of guy.” Upon arrival at the whitest, squarest teen party ever captured on film, a boy meets Phil at the door, prompting Bill to say, “Can I get you a piece of toast, or a cup of bouillon?” Many strange elements evince a rather bizarre obsession with ham radios, menu collections and sweaters, giving the Rifftrax Crew plenty of material to work with all the way through. While I can’t guarantee that watching this excellent short will make you popular, it certainly can’t hurt your chances.
(1947, Educational/Short, b&w)