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Cipher in the Snow (1974)

Not Rated  |   |  Short, Drama  |  October 1974 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.0/10 from 112 users  
Reviews: 14 user

Asking to leave a school bus, Cliff, a young teenager, collapses and dies in the snow near the roadside. His math teacher is asked to notify the parents and then write a short obituary. ... See full summary »



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Title: Cipher in the Snow (1974)

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Cast overview:
Robert Bridges
Bruce Kimball
Jacqueline Mayo
Roberta Shore ...
Peggy, school secretary
Walter Stocker
Mary Cox
Larry Watts
Martha Henstrom
Kirk Hutchings
Ronald Jenkins ...
Bus Driver
Court LeRoy


Asking to leave a school bus, Cliff, a young teenager, collapses and dies in the snow near the roadside. His math teacher is asked to notify the parents and then write a short obituary. This task is difficult, for although he was Cliff's favorite teacher and had the most interaction of any at the school, he barely knew him. In unraveling the mystery of the untimely death, he finds that Cliff was shy, lonely, and ostracized, being slowly reduced to nothing, a zero (cipher). He vows to not let this happen to others. Written by Brian Greenhalgh

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Plot Keywords:

teacher | obituary | teenager | shy | bully | See All (8) »


Short | Drama


Not Rated




Release Date:

October 1974 (USA)  »

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Referenced in The Field Is White (2002) See more »

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User Reviews

A bleak but very moral story...
13 June 2003 | by (fabulous Las Vega$!) – See all my reviews

This penetrating short film was screened at my middle-school in the mid-70s, and to this day it continues to cross my mind. Allegedly inspired by a true event, the film denotes a lonely, withdrawn boy ridiculed by schoolmates, invisible to teachers, and mistreated at home. A complete absence of love and intermutuality gradually reduces him to "a cipher"(meaning, literally, "zero"). One early morning before school, he is finally granted a single tender mercy...he falls dead on a snowbank, released at last from his quiet suffering.

I consider this film an integral part of my upbringing. It planted a seed in my young mind, and served to pilot my conscious efforts toward being a good person, and to step forward when others are being unjustly or inhumanely treated. In the many years which have passed since I saw it, I suspect CIPHER has become stylistically dated. That said, I feel it should be remade generationally, so as to update its appeal with the ever-changing mindset of youth. The relevance of this story is eternal, and the importance of human empathy and the awareness that everyone matters can never be given too much reenforcement.

Kudos to the LDS church for funding this silent scream. Eight well-deserved stars for the film, and a zillion stars for the urgency of its purpose.

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