Without seeming to try, without straining, the movie is less a story of prison life than it is the story of a segment of modern American urban society that's on the bottom but refuses to recognize the fact, if only because there are shadowy figures even further down the scale of values. It will begin its regular commercial engagements Friday at the Sutton and Paramount Theaters. Its theatrical origins are quite apparent in this furious but controlled screen version directed by Robert M. Young, who made a number of award-winning television documentaries in the 60's.
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Without seeming to try, without straining, the movie is less a story of prison life than it is the story of a segment of modern American urban society that's on the bottom but refuses to recognize the fact, if only because there are shadowy figures even further down the scale of values. It will begin its regular commercial engagements Friday at the Sutton and Paramount Theaters. Its theatrical origins are quite apparent in this furious but controlled screen version directed by Robert M.
Young, who made a number of award-winning television documentaries in the 60's. He also collaborated, with Michael Roemer, on the fine feature film, "Nothing but a Man," shown at the Film Festival in In this case, though, the theatrical origins contribute to the claustrophobic atmosphere that is essential to the point of "Short Eyes," which is about a kind of overcrowding that is the physical equivalent to emotional desperation.
There's no way out. As lines of dialogue overlap in that supercharged way of a theatrical production, so do Mr. The blacks have staked out one section, the Puerto Ricans another and the white minority still another. The one person who has no territory is the new man, a nice-looking, mild-mannered, WASPy fellow named Clark Davis Bruce Davison , who, once the word gets out that he is a "short-eyes"—prison jargon for child molester—is subjected to the systematized torture that gives shape to the story.
Although there are only four members of the stage production in the film, the acting has the balance and the ferocity to be found in a group of actors who have been playing with—and against—one another for years. This is ensemble playing of the first rank. Among those you'll remember are Jose Perez as the father-confessor figure among Puerto Rican prisoners, a man who tries unsuccessfuly to maintain some order in the ranks; Don Blakely as an angry black nationalist who, when the chips are down, is unable to commit a race murder; Shawn Elliott as a Puerto Rican prisoner whose viciousness has both grace and charm to it; Tito Goya as the "kid" who is the object of apparently unwanted attentions, and Joseph Carberry as the leader of the white prisoners, who initially befriends "Short Eyes" and then becomes his most relentless judge.
Curtis Mayfield, the singer and composer, makes a brief, very effective appearance as an older prisoner who wears "granny" glasses and believes there should be some decency even among people fighting to hang on to the bottom rung of the ladder. If Mr. Davison stands out—which he does—it's not only because of his position within the film as the victim of the victims, but also because he gives a performance so intimate it's almost painful to watch.
There is something of this quality about the entire film. Running time: minutes. This film has been rated R. Clark Davis. Bruce DavisonJuan. Jose PerezIce. Nathan GeorgeE. Don BlakelyPaco. Shawn ElliottCupcakes. Tito GoyaLongshoe. Joseph CarberryOmar.
Kenny StewardMr. Bob MaroffMr. Keith DavisGo Go. Miguel PineroCha Cha. Willie HernandezTony. Tony Di BenedettoMr. Bob O'ConnellMr. Mark MargolisGomez. Richard MatamorosPappy.
Curtis MayfieldJohnny. Freddie Fender. See the article in its original context from September 28, , Page 0 Buy Reprints. View on timesmachine. TimesMachine is an exclusive benefit for home delivery and digital subscribers. To preserve these articles as they originally appeared, The Times does not alter, edit or update them. Occasionally the digitization process introduces transcription errors or other problems; we are continuing to work to improve these archived versions.
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Short Eyes: A Play
There is a marvelous new play in town that I heartily commend to you. Pinero was already playwright in residence. It richly deserves this newly designed Production and the opportunity to reach a larger audiknee. It is a prison play, but a prison play with a difference.
Theater: ‘Short Eyes,’ Prison Drama
The play is set in an unnamed House of Detention in New York City, the inmates of which are predominantly black or Latino. One day, a new prisoner is brought in: Clark Davis, a young, middle-class white man accused of raping a young girl. His fellow prisoners immediately turn on him — child molesters are considered the lowest form of prison life — except for Juan, one of the institution's older prisoners, who treats him with dignity. While Davis insists he doesn't remember raping the girl, he admits that he has molested several other children. It is eventually revealed that the police's case against Davis is weak, and he will likely be released. This puts Juan in a difficult position: on one hand, he feels a grudging pity for Davis, and "snitching" on another prisoner, even one as despised as Davis, could get him killed; on the other, there is no doubt in his mind that Davis will "scar up some more little girls' minds" if released. Before he can decide what to do, however, Davis is attacked and killed by the other prisoners.
Film: 'Short Eyes' Eloquently Adapted