Child’s Play 1972 ***

Sidney Lumet was a master of many genres, from thrillers (Serpico, Q & A) to courtroom procedurals (Twelve Angry Men, The Verdict), and seems to have been the go-to guy for theatrical adaptations (Death Trap). Marlon Brando dropped out of this adaptation of Robert Marasco’s Broadway hit, to be replaced by Music Man star Robert Preston. He plays Joseph Dobbs, a teacher at a boys school who clashes with weak-willed Latin teacher Jerome Malley (James Mason), with Paul (Beau Bridges) as the sporty young American teacher who gets caught in the crossfire. Lumet conjures up a sharp picture of the potential for cruel rivalry in the private-school world, aided by meaty work from Mason, Preston and Bridges. Brando had The Godfather instead; in a career littered by bad films, it’s a shame he had to chose between two good ones.


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