Marvin is a young man in dire straits. His dad is unemployed and the family has very little money, leaving Marv to scrape up a few bucks any way he can to survive. He loses the scholarship that would have allowed him to go to college after getting caught writing a term paper for a girl who offered to pay him. He also finds himself falling for that girl, while she’s only using him.
Marv decides that he desperately needs money… and luckily, he has some idea of where to get it. He’s a good kid at heart and he’s certainly intelligent, but he may be willing to let his judgment lapse and get involved with the mob so he can become rich.
Tom Pittman stars in 1959’s High School Big Shot as Marv, with Virginia Aldridge starring as the apple of his eye (“Betty”) and Malcom Atterbury appearing as Marv’s father. The film was directed and written by Joel Rapp, and was later spoofed in MST3K.
High School Big Shot is a film that requires a suspense of belief from the viewer to a certain extent. Betty appears to be the only girl in the entire class, and Marv’s affections for her grow at break-neck speed. Tom Pittman’s performance isn’t quite good enough to pull this off, though, and as a result the viewer gets no sense that he is truly infatuated with Betty. The film’s potential is derailed by this.
Though corny from time to time, there also is some successfully gritty drama mixed into this film. Despite the moments of corn and the lack of believability surrounding Marv’s relationship with Betty, High School Big Shot isn’t an incredibly light watch.
The rift between Marv and his alcoholic father, as well as Marv’s eventual criminal involvement, give the film an edge of seriousness despite all of its flaws. The scenes between Tom Pittman and Malcom Atterbury are incredibly sad. This puts the story a small cut above some others of the “good kid corrupted by bad kid of the opposite sex” juvenile delinquent films.
Mill Creek’s print of this film has quite a few issues in terms of picture quality, and they do distract from the film’s content at times. The sound quality is good, though. This film appears in the “Sensational ’60s” set, though it was released in 1959 originally. It appears to have been trimmed by ten minutes or so, as it runs at exactly an hour while IMDb lists the running time as 70 minutes.
High School Big Shot is not as completely action-packed or suspenseful as it could be, but it does have some good drama and is overall an engrossing watch. It is not a film free of problems, but it’s decent. The score: 2/5