Here's the origin of the term: Scared Straight! a watershed documentary about highschool delinquents who are exposed to the real criminal element during a three-hour deprogramming session in a real prison. Here, 30-year-to-lifers get face to face -- nose to nose, really -- with uppity teenagers thinking they're invulnerable and will never get caught during their petty crimes.
The prisoners drag these kids around, scream in their faces, and tell them what the joint is really like. The idea is to scare the pants off them so they'll stop sniffing glue, shoplifting, or whatever. Peter Falk narrates as only Peter Falk can.
The one drawback with the film is that its production values are quite low. It's hard to understand the dialogue what with all the yelling and lack of up-close microphones. In the end it's hard to figure out exactly why these kids are scared straight except that these guys make for really menacing role models.
The new DVD adds present-day coverage showing us what happened to some of the prisoners and most of the teens, hosted by Danny Glover. Were they really scared straight? Most were, some weren't. The ones that appeared hardest during the original shoot in 1978 remained that way -- and most went to prison themselves in later years (or died along the way). As a cultural study, it's far more interesting that Michael Apted's 42 Up series.
Run time: 52 mins
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
IMDB: 7.9 / 10
Director: Arnold Shapiro
Producer: Arnold Shapiro
Screenwriter: Arnold Shapiro