A Blast From The Past: Big Man On Campus (dir by Sid Davis)


The 1963 educational short film, Big Man on Campus, tells the story of Jerry, a 13 year-old with the attitude of a 16 year-old.

Jerry thought he was the coolest kid at his middle school.  He thought throwing a milk carton was no big deal.  He thought not studying for his classes wasn’t the worst thing in the world.  He thought all of his classmates would like him if he rode his bicycle into traffic.  He thought starting fights was no biggie.  He thought everyone wanted to listen to another chorus of Grease Lightning.  He thought Sandy was just a summer fling and that having the Ramones play at the local high school wouldn’t be a big deal.  Jerry thought a lot of things.

Jerry was wrong.

Fortunately, the Vice Principal was there to set Jerry straight.  That’s right, the vice principal.  Jerry may thing he’s a big man on campus but he’s not even important enough to rate a meeting with the principal.  Instead, he has to make due with the guy who teaches Chemistry.  It takes a while for the vice principal to step out of his office but when he does, it’s obvious that the vice principal, with his navy haricut and his eyeglasses, isn’t going to stand for any nonconformity.  Most afternoons, the vice principal would be busy tracking down and tearing up flyers for the Fair Play for Cuba Committee.  Instead, on this day in November of 1963, the vice principal is having to discipline Jerry.  Not only has Jerry caused a disruption at the school but he’s also allowed for the proliferation of pro-Castro propaganda.  Can Jerry be saved or is he destined to become a pinball wizard with his own holiday camp?

You probably already know the answer.  This educational film comes to us from Sid Davis, whose films were best known for their use of an extremely judgmental and rather dramatic narrator.  The Sid Davis narrators were the ones who wouldn’t only explain what had happened but who would also offer up questions like, “You never thought one little action could ruin your life and the lives of so many others, did you?”  That narrator is heard in Big Man on Campus but we also hear the voice of Jerry, trying to convince himself that his actions were no big deal and that everyone is totally overreacting.

Of course, deep down, Jerry knows that he’s no good.  He knows that his mother is setting him up for a life of crime by arguing that “boys will be boys.”  He knows that he’s destined to end up at juvenile hall and, after that, a life of unemployment.  He knows all of this but he needs the help of a seriously annoyed adult to help him truly understand it.  He needs the hard-earned, war-scarred, and apparently nearsighted wisdom of the vice principal.

Can Jerry be saved or is he destined to end up working a prop comic in Wichita Falls?  Watch and find out!

One response to “A Blast From The Past: Big Man On Campus (dir by Sid Davis)

  1. Pingback: Lisa Marie’s Week In Review: 2/7/22 — 2/13/22 | Through the Shattered Lens

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