To Sir, with Love (1967)
Reviewed on 2011 November 10
This 1967 adaptation of the eponymous novel was very popular stateside, and it’s easy to see why. It had a good cast, a storyline that was touching without being cloying, and the one and only Sidney Poitier as Sir.
Mark Thackery (Poitier, also known as “MISTER Tibbs!”) is an engineer between jobs. Cultured and educated, Mark is happy to take a teaching gig to make ends meet, because imparting knowledge is second nature to him. Unfortunately for him, the only thing open is a slot at a tough school in London’s East End.
Mark has seen a lot and, as long as it was worthy of a gentleman, probably did it too. These kids are are kind of like the coffee-addicted worm aliens from Men In Black: not really bad kids underneath it all, but noisy, chaotic, and so toughened by their hard lives that the idea of homework is a joke to them. Good luck getting anything productive out of this lot, his co-workers caution him.
Mark is not going to be discouraged that easily, starting with his first house rule: The kids either get to call him Mister Thackery or Sir. They opt for the easier Sir, but that’s the first in a huge line of hurdles. Forget stuff like the capital of Burma; these kids have to learn about life itself, including hygiene. Mark almost throws in the towel, until a co-worker gives him a revelation.
This was made on a shoestring budget, and that only added to the gritty feeling. A lot of older, dated movies just seem odd and creaky; almost cringe-worthy when you watch them. This is unusual because it’s obviously dated, yet it’s more like a time capsule of the ’60s instead of something so cheesy you’re almost sheepish someone will catch you watching it. Even the “house band that wears and plays the same thing in every shot” thing that was so awkward in many movies from this era was upgraded here, culminating with Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders cranking out “It’s Getting Harder All of the Time.” Poitier, is of course, Poitier, and the world is a better place for it.
Three chocolate morsels.