BOOTLEG FILES 123: “Boys Beware” (1961 “educational” film about predatory gays victimizing teen boys).
LAST SEEN: Online at several film sites.
AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: Only from duped public domain labels.
REASON FOR DISAPPEARANCE: A 10-minute oddity with no commercial value.
CHANCES OF SEEING A DVD RELEASE: Not likely.
BOOTLEG OPPORTUNITIES: Fabulous!
The only thing you can genuinely learn from educational movies is how not to make movies. This genre falls into several inappropriate slots: either the films are sticky and sentimental with their anvil messages, or they require kids to become slavishly obedient to adult authority and not question the wisdom of grown-ups, or they are just plain weird. And on occasion, an educational film teaches subjects in a thoroughly incorrect manner.
One of the most notoriously awful educational films of all time was a 10-minute monstrosity from 1961 called “Boys Beware.” What should boys beware of? Well, if this film is to be believed, boys should be afraid of homosexuals. And why should boys be afraid of homosexuals? Because, according to this education film, homosexuals exist to sexually molest and murder clean-cut youths.
Oh? Well, this was made in 1961. But even in that distant Stone Age, the level of intolerance and deliberate dishonesty is fairly astonishing. “Boys Beware” is to gays what “The Birth of a Nation” is to African-Americans.
Produced in accordance with the police departments and school board of Inglewood, California, “Boys Beware” is narrated by one Lt. Williams of the “juvenile division” of the local cop house. He offers a wealth of stories of young lads who were seduced and ruins by big-bad homos. Apparently Inglewood was the gay mecca in California before the Castro District became prime gay real estate.
The first story involved Jimmy Barnes, who gets into the start of his pickle one day while hitchhiking from school to home. It is easy to assume the film would detail the dangers of hitchhiking, but in this case that risky behavior is approved by Lt. Williams (who is clearly not the brightest light in the police force). Jimmy is picked up by Ralph, a balding oddball who engages the kid in conversation before driving him home. Ralph leaves Jimmy with a friendly pat on the back.
But Lt. Williams warns us that this is not a benign gesture: “What Jimmy didn’t know was that Ralph was sick; a sickness that was not visible like smallpox, but no less dangerous and contagious; a sickness of the mind. You see, Ralph was a homosexual: a person who demands an intimate relationship with members of their own sex.”
And, yes, Ralph is after Jimmy’s member. But he takes his sweet time getting there: a few more friendly drives home are followed by stops for fast-food, then a fishing trip, then a game of miniature golf, and then a new set of clothing. Strangely, Lt. Williams didn’t recognize the homosexual’s uncommon sense of classy fashion style. But, of course, Ralph isn’t acting as Jimmy’s fairy godfather. We see the two heading up the stairs to what could either by Ralph’s garden apartment or a motel room. Next thing, we are outside of the police station. Lt. Williams tells us that Ralph was arrested and sent to jail while Jimmy was “released on probation in the custody of his parents.” Yes, Jimmy was arrested – hey, Lt. Williams probably had an arrest quota to fill.
Then we learn about young Mike Merritt (you may notice that no one in educational film has ethnic names – only WASP kids get into trouble here). Mike is a teen who gets the attention of a seemingly harmless older guy at a basketball court. The older man offers to drive Mike home. Bad idea, Mike!
As Lt. Williams tells us: “Not all homosexuals are passive, some resort to violence…as in the case of Mike Merritt. The companionship, the praise, the friendly attitude dispelled any misgivings Mike might have had about going with a stranger. He probably never realized until too late that he was riding in the shadow of death, but sometime that evening, Mike Merritt exchanged his life for a newspaper headline.”
Then we have two more quickie vignettes: a newspaper delivery boy gets into a car with a stranger, but one of the kid’s pals gets the license plate number. Hooray for the motorcycle cops, who save the day and the kid. Then there is an interlude at a public restroom. Lt. Williams tells us: “A good restroom can often be a hangout for the homosexual.” (Obviously, homosexuals never hang out in restrooms that haven’t been cleaned by the local janitors). A teen who is followed by a homosexual from a restroom near a pier makes a Road Runner-worthy getaway.
But ultimately, Lt. Williams tells his audience to be very, very afraid: “One never knows when a homosexual is about. He may appear normal and it may be too late when you discover he is mentally ill.”
Lt. Williams talks a lot, yes? That is because on the $1,000 budget, there wasn’t money for a soundtrack. Thus, the entire film is played in pantomime while the cop’s incessant narration fills us in on who’s boning whom. The low budget also affected the vehicular props: Lt. Williams and all of the lascivious predators drive the exact same car!
“Boys Beware” was made by one Sid Davis, who oddly cast himself as the queer in the restroom. The rest of the cast appear to be amateurs, if their acting is any indication. Davis apparently used amateur musicians for the soundtrack, which has an inanely cheery bounce that one associates with Laurel & Hardy comedies – except for when the gory gays close in, at which point a jungle drum is pounded.
It might be easy to laugh at the stupidity of “Boys Beware” if the film wasn’t so virulent in equating homosexuality and pedophilia. There is a world of difference between adults having consensual intercourse and adults abusing children, and even at this late date too many stupid people cannot tell the difference. Films like “Boys Beware” reinforced a culture of homophobia which is only recently being chipped away by voices of intelligence and common sense.
I don’t know how wide the release of “Boys Beware” was – it was clearly meant for school viewing only, but I suspect its shelf life was limited (given both the black-and-white film and the hair-and-clothing styles that went out of date very quickly). It disappeared in the late 1960s and re-emerged years later as archivists began to rediscover the warped educational movies of post-war America. The film has been widely bootlegged and has turned up in gay film festivals and several online movie sites.
I wish I could equate this with “Reefer Madness” as an example of severely inaccurate educational filmmaking. But “Reefer Madness” is a hilarious goof of a movie. “Boys Beware” is just plain old pathetic. Boys, beware of this one!
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