Child's Play (1972) - Plot Summary Poster



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  • Paul Reis returns to the exclusive Catholic prep school he graduated from nine years earlier as a gym teacher. He is reunited with his former mentor and English teacher, the affable and gregarious Joseph Dobbs, the most popular member of the faculty and advisor to the junior class, and Jerome Malley, a strict disciplinarian and teacher of classical languages, whose old-fashioned methods make him heartily disliked by his pupils. Reis finds himself caught in between the two men in a struggle for the hearts, minds, and souls of the boys. Malley, nicknamed "Lash" by his students has ruled out retirement, and Dobbs, who feels that Malley has lost touch with the students, hopes to inherit the senior class. Even though Malley's mother is dying an agonizing death from cancer, the Latin and Greek teacher refuses to surrender his position as head of the senior class to a man whose motives he questions. The tensions on the faculty are mirrored in the student body, which has endured a rash of malicious hazing and ritualistic violence that no one on the staff seemingly understands.

  • At an exclusive boys' school, a new gym teacher is drawn into a feud between two older instructors, and he discovers that everything at the school is not quite as staid, tranquil and harmless as it seems.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • "Child's Play" is about the destructive goings-on at a boy's school and the friction between two faculty members. Joe Dobbs, English teacher, likeable, charming, favored by his students, is the junior class leader. The senior class leader, Latin and Greek instructor Jerome Malley, is feared and despised by the boys in his class. He is a strict disciplinarian with the nickname of "Lash". Dobbs is constantly trying to get Malley to "ease up" on his pupils. In fact, the only thing standing between Dobbs becoming the senior class leader is Malley's imminent retirement. Layered on top of this conflict between the two men is the increasingly bizarre and distructive behavior of the boys themselves. Malley also seems to be on the verge of a nervous breakdown due to the stress of dealing with his dying mother compounded by the receipt of anonymous threatening phone calls and messages. Malley's prickly personality wins no friends or sympathy when he claims Hobbs is the source of these hectoring calls and letters.

    Into all of this turmoil comes Paul Reis, the new PE instructor, who was formerly a student at the school. As an outsider bringing a fresh perspective, he first sides with Hobbs, but, getting to understand Malley's torments on a more personal level, he begins to have doubts about Hobbs' motivation.

    The end of the film is both tragic and bizarre.

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