This public-school educational film warns of the dangers of cheating. John Taylor is struggling with his algebra course, and convinces his friend Mary to show him her answers during the tests. But when he is caught, his reputation among his fellow students, along with his student-council seat, is put in jeopardy. Written by
(Note: Although I really enjoyed the MST3K treatment of "Cheating", I'm commenting here on the original version, sans wisecracking robots.)
For this parable on the downside of cheating on school tests, director Herk Harvey gets a bit more experimental than is typical for these outings. The opening scene is dominated by an eerily lit pendulum clock that casts an ominous shadow on protagonist John Taylor as he awaits a phone call. This clock's slow ticking, measuring the passing time, is a recurring theme of the short. This certainly must be the aspect of "Cheating" that has made at least a couple reviewers compare it to the German expressionist style of film making.
From something out of "M", there's an abrupt transition to a scene reminiscent of 'The Telephone Hour' in "Bye-Bye Birdie". At this point, the story continues in flashback, with a narrator. Oddly, he addresses his remarks not to the viewer but to John (except for a brief aside to Mary and the "What would you do?" questions to the audience at the end). Most of the rest of the film is in the standard no-one-moves-much-during-a-take style of these Centron productions, with acting about as wooden as it's possible to be. However, there's at least one more stylistic oddity. The night after his first, successful cheating, John is haunted in bed by an apparition - the disembodied head of his teacher. This reminds me of a convention used in old romance comics, of all things!
While films like this certainly aren't great art, they are utterly fascinating as expressions of the concerns of their era. With its unusual approach, "Cheating" (along with "The Other Fellow's Feelings", in my opinion) is a stand-out of the genre.
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