The Cry Baby Killer (1958) Poster

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this rare find is completely watchable on one level, almost in spite of itself...
MisterWhiplash1 March 2006
You'd know why you'd want to find this film, as it's the ultra-low budget, barely-a-drive-in quickie that features the great Jack Nicholson in his feature debut at the tender age of 21 (he was a mailman at MGM in his previous years in Hollywood). He plays a youth out of control, though also under duress. He's taken a woman and kid hostage, and outside the crowd builds in anticipation as the cops struggle to find a compromise to get everyone safely out. The film is complete with a theme song that just repeats 'cry-cry-cry, cry-baby killer', and in a style that is as polished as a junkyard dog. The story itself, by the way, is told in a way that is so simplistic and with over-acting (or maybe too trying-to-be-realistic acting) that is typical of this kind of un-pretentiously kind of fare. ''

But the reason in the end to reach into the recesses of ebay or elsewhere to find it is to see Nicholson in his early larval stage of a career, and somehow he does make the work fascinating to watch. Obviously not his best by a long-shot, and his first big break in the B-world would come later in Little Shop of Horrors and even later in Easy Rider. However I did like how he was keeping his scenes pretty well grounded, keeping to the situation at hand with all of the confusion and shattered rebellion that's in a youth of his real age. It's almost like checking out the Beatles when they were still the Quarry Men or something- it's not necessarily 'good', but you might be surprised at how it's not really bad either.
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Great Camp
Michael_Elliott7 March 2008
Cry Baby Killer, The (1958)

*** (out of 4)

This is somewhat of a Holy Grail for me because I've been dying to see this flick since I became a fan of Jack Nicholson back in the late 80s. I've been pretty lucky to know people who own rare movies but not a single one ever had this film and in fact, I never he knew anyone who had actually seen it. In the film Nicholson (in his debut) plays a hot headed teen who is upset when the town's tough guy steals his girl. After being jumped, Nicholson gets ahold of a gun, kills the tough guy and then takes another man, a woman and her baby hostage. A tough as nails cop (Harry Lauter) tries to talk him out as the television station and onlookers gather outside. This moral/teenage flick is in the same vein as Rebel Without a Cause but it stands out due in large part to being Nicholson's debut. I wouldn't say he gives a good performance as he goes way too over the top in a few scenes but you can see certain trademarks that'll show up in some of his classic performances. The scenes with him screaming at the crying baby get some unintentional laughs as does a few other scenes but this just adds to the cult appeal. Since this film is on DVD now I'm sure it will become a cult classic of the Drive-In teenage films. Producer Roger Corman and screenwriter Leo Gordon have cameos.
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Jack Nicholson had an interesting film debut in The Cry Baby Killer
tavm21 September 2014
So after watching this movie, another curiosity was sated: I got to see Jack Nicholson's first film and find out if it was any good. Well, it's not too bad and since it's only an hour, not too much time was wasted watching it. Nicholson certainly does well when he becomes desperate enough to hold up a woman with a baby and a middle-aged black man hostage after shooting at a couple of punks who beat him up at the beginning of the movie. Roger Corman was the executive producer only here so there's not much of his creative hand in the finished product though it was interesting seeing his cameo when he briefly talks to the TV reporter before he was going on the air to broadcast the standoff. So on that note, The Cry Baby Killer is worth a look for any Nicholson completists.
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Entertaining foray into JD/hostage pic
funkyfry7 March 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Producer Roger Corman's mark is heavy on this film, so much so that he might as well have directed it himself instead of TV director Jus Addiss. Working from a script by actor Leo Gordon, this film in its short 61 minute running time takes us through a sort of "movie of the week" scenario with a troubled youth (Jack Nicholson, making his film debut) accidentally shooting another kid during an argument over a girl (Carolyn Mitchell) and taking a baby and mother hostage.

Nicholson was pretty good in my opinion, green as he was. It's not exactly James Dean in "Rebel Without a Cause", but neither is the script and Addiss isn't Ray. I'd say it was an auspicious beginning. It wasn't all that often that Nicholson even got this much screen time in his early years, usually he was a supporting actor and at one point wanted to direct and write. So this is kind of an unusual movie for fans because they get a chance to see him in a real leading role at such an early age.

Harry Lauter plays the main detective trying to resolve the situation, and his performance is well measured and helps to balance the film's basic melodrama. With the crowd waiting around for violence, it's sort of a B movie version of "Ace in the Hole" crossed with "The Desperate Hours." Strangely though, while it seems critical of the media/public obsession with the sensationalism of the incident, the movie shows the cops and reporters in friendly relationships.

There's nothing hugely appealing about the movie though, I don't think it broke any new ground other than introducing Nicholson. There isn't very much story, and everything pretty much takes place in the same location, so it feels sort of closed and theatrical. The photography and sound is professional but uninspired, as is the direction of the actors in general. This isn't a "classic" by any means, but it's worth an hour of my life.
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Waste Of Time
Johnboy122129 November 2008
Warning: Spoilers
This is really a bad movie, and it could have been so much better.

Unless you're a Jack Nicholson fanatic, forget this one. It's his first film, and as such makes some fans want to see it. I was one of those.

The story is not a bad one, but come on..let's get real. This comes across as a Hallmark Hall of Fame production, without the quality.

I am also a fan of Brett Halsey, but even that doesn't help. His part in this is so small that you'll hardly notice it.

The film starts out without a beginning. Why is the gang so upset with Nicholson's character? They beat him up, for no real reason.

In a stupid mistake, the screenplay has one hood carry the gun and the director forgets which one has it in his possession later on.

Two guys are shot, but we never see it happen. Why? We hear shots, and the injured parties are never seen again. Why? Nicholson's character shoots in self defense, but he's terrified that they will kill him. Why? The movie drags on and on and on, boring us all to death. By the time it comes to an end, no one is dead, and we don't care one way or the other.

Nicholson is OK in his debut, but who cares? This is so lame I could hardly stay awake, and I was hoping that they would shoot the kid at the end to relieve my boredom.

Unless you just have to have everything Nicholson ever appeared in forget this one.
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The boy with the gun
kapelusznik187 April 2017
Warning: Spoilers
***SPOILERS**** Somewhat misleading title in that the star of the film Jack Nicholson as the misunderstood teenager Jimmy Wallace is not a killer, he didn't kill anyone, but defiantly is a crybaby who cry's up a storm that almost drowns the entire cast by the time the film is finally over. Jimmy who has a confrontation with Manny Cole, Brett Halsey, and his two friends Joey & Al, Ralph Reed & James Fillmore, over his girlfriend Carole Fields, Carolyn Mitchell, is later confronted by the trio again this time using brass knuckles and a revolver. It's then in trying to defend himself Jimmy accidentally shoots one of his attackers and runs for his life thinking that he killed him and may be facing life behind bars or a one way trip to the San Quentin gas chamber.

Taking Mrs. Maxton, Brabara Knudson, and her 4 month baby girl as well as dishwasher Sam, Smoki Whitefield, hostage in a nearby diner Jimmy is ready to go down in a hail of police bullets until his girlfriend Carole as well as Sam, the real hero in the movie, talk him into surrendering to the police before anybody including himself ends up getting killed. Sacared and confused Jimmy feeling that the world is against him finds out that he's not the rotten teenager that most people think he is and deserves everything he gets-A rotten deal- in life. It's just when the cops are about to storm the place It's both Carole and Sam who end up saving the day, or night in that everything takes place in the dark in the movie, by getting a tearful Jimmy to surrender before he ends up getting shot by the police. As for Sam he gets no credit at all by the head of the police Let. Porter, Harry Lauter, not even a thank you for the great job he did by risking his life, unlike Let. Porter, to get Jimmy to surrender and releasing Mrs. Maxton and her infant daughter unharmed.

Jack Nicholson's movie debut before he made it big 12 years later with his "Five Easy Pieces" as well as "Easy Rider" that made him a top star in Hollywood. Things didn't turns out so good for Nicholson's co-star in the movie Carolyn Mitchell who later married and divorced Mickey Rooney and was tragically murdered by her former boyfriend bit part Yogoslave actor Milos Mlosevice at the age 29 in 1966 in what was described by the local police as a murder suicide .
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"Less Than Inspiring"
ferbs5425 June 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Recently, this viewer happened to watch, for the first time, the 1950 film "The Men," historically important today as the screen debut of 26-year-old Marlon Brando. And by some strange coincidence, my next film, also seen for the first time, was the 1958 picture "The Cry Baby Killer," whose only legitimate claim to fame today is that it marked the screen debut of the 21-year-old Jack Nicholson. The connection between the two actors, of course, is that they were neighbors for many years on Beverly Hills' Mulholland Drive, as well as former costars in 1976's "The Missouri Breaks." And as reported on a certain Wiki site, Nicholson even purchased Brando's home after his death, with the express intention of having the place torn down out of respect for Marlon's memory. But whereas the Brando debut in "The Men" clearly demonstrated the emergence of a wonderful new screen talent, in an exceptionally fine film, "Cry Baby Killer" just barely hints at the latent possibilities that the young Nicholson harbored, and the film itself is...well, let's just say that it is far from "exceptionally fine." Indeed, even executive producer Roger Corman (who I had erroneously thought the film's director, who had met Nicholson in an acting class, and who was on a two-month trip around the world as the film was being prepared) has gone on to say that "the finished movie is less than inspiring." In truth, without Jack's presence, the film would hardly be worth watching today, and yet...well, as will be seen, it still has some points to commend it to the viewer's attention, and at a brief 61 minutes, can hardly be accused of overstaying its welcome!

In the film, Jack stars as teenager Jimmy Wallace, who, when we first encounter him, is in the process of getting the crap pounded out of him by a gang led by the suit-and-tie-clad Manny Cole (Brett Halsey). Later that evening, Jimmy enters the Klix Drive-In eatery, in which Manny presides like some kind of smarmy, thuggish demigod, determined to take back his girl, Carole (Carolyn Mitchell, whose only other film appears to be that same year's "Dragstrip Riot"), from the older punk. A fight develops outside, during which Jimmy grabs a gun from one of Manny's accomplices and shoots two of the toughs in the heat of battle. Thinking that he has slain the two youths (as it develops, he hasn't; just wounded them in their intestines), Jimmy holes up in a shack next to the drive-in, holding a young mother and her baby, as well as an older black man, as hostages. And before long, a siege situation develops, as cops, spectators, relatives and a news crew gather, and Jimmy is soon being referred to as "the boy with the gun."

Of course, the question uppermost in the viewer's mind will probably be "Why doesn't Jimmy just give himself up right away?," but I suppose that if that were the way things logically transpired, this hour-long movie would barely have cracked the 10-minute mark. Rather, "The Cry Baby Killer" (an odd title, actually, given that Jimmy does not shed tears once and, as has been mentioned, is not actually a killer) treats the viewer to around 50 minutes' worth of the head cop, Lt. Porter (Harry Lauter), questioning everyone at the scene, Jimmy's parents and Carole begging the mixed-up nut via bullhorn to come out, and, most annoyingly, a newsman from KQQQ (!) repeating every incident that we have already witnessed for the benefit of the television viewers at home. Fortunately, we also get to see what is transpiring inside that shack, and thus are privy to Nicholson's first on-screen rants, as he screams at the young mother to make her hungry baby stop crying. For all its brevity, the picture nonetheless seems to drag in parts, and indeed feels padded with needless scenes (the tentative romancing between cop Gannon and waitress Julie, for example). Curiously, the circus atmosphere that eventually develops at the siege site, with vendors selling hot dogs and Red Hots to the gawking crowd, is almost reminiscent of the situation that develops at the cave-in locale in Billy Wilder's wonderful offering of 1951, "Ace in the Hole"; of course, "The Cry Baby Killer" should not even be mentioned in the same breath as that classic film. Besides Nicholson, only a few faces here will be at all familiar to most viewers: Ed Nelson as that TV reporter (Nelson also appeared in Corman's popular schlock classics "Attack of the Crab Monsters," "Teenage Cave Man" and "A Bucket of Blood," but will probably be most recognizable to baby boomers by dint of his work on TV's "Peyton Place") and Herb Vigran as a shyster lawyer (Herb appeared as crooks no less than six times on TV's "The Adventures of Superman"!). Oh...Corman is in there, too; a cameo as a TV technician whose only line is "Sounds OK!" And speaking of Roger, perhaps it would have been better for all concerned if he had indeed directed this film, as the work turned in here by Justus Addiss--who seems to have directed almost exclusively for '50s and '60s television--is pedestrian, at best. "The Cry Baby Killer," to its credit, does feature a title tune that will likely work as an "earworm" in your head for many days. Composed and sung by actor and sometimes music writer Dick Kallman, this bizarre, repetitive number almost sounds as if it were being chanted by a beatnik, perhaps in a coffeehouse similar to the Yellow Door Cafe in "A Bucket of Blood." This memorable tune, and the fact that this was indeed Nicholson's first go before the cameras, are probably the two best reasons (possibly the only reasons!) for seeking out this otherwise forgettable film. At worst, it will inspire viewers to check out one of Jack's later, better performances...such as masochistic dental patient Wilbur Force in the Corman-directed "Little Shop of Horrors," for example. Now THERE'S a performance for the ages!
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Economy-sized 'Le Jour se Lève' for the drive-ins
Richard Chatten25 August 2017
Warning: Spoilers
This title will be familiar to most viewers who have heard of it as the film debut of Jack Nicholson in the title role, second billed to veteran TV and 'B' movie tough guy Harry Lauter; here representing the law. Although Roger Corman is billed as Executive Producer (and has one line as a TV cameraman (after which all we see of him for the rest of the film is his right hand resting on the side of the camera), the film is a United Artists release rather than one of AIP's quickies, with slightly bigger production values; a mixed blessing in the face of TV director Justus Addiss's lethargic direction.

Corman regulars Leo Gordon (who co-wrote the script) and Bruno Ve Sota (who the same year directed 'The Brain Eaters') fill out the economy-sized crowd who have gathered to ogle; and Gordon generously gives Ve Sota one of the script's best lines, "Teenagers, never had 'em when I was a kid!"

The basic situation dates back at least as far as Jean Gabin in 'Le Jour se Lève' (1939), and was probably more immediately inspired by the siege at the end of 'Rebel Without a Cause'. Nicholson doesn't actually get that much screen time, as much of the action taking place back in the diner and in the forecourt. The script flits from character to character, including Gordon's own wife Lynn Cartwright, who gives an attractive performance as waitress Julie, united with Ruth Swanson as Nicholson's mother in her contempt for poison maiden Carolyn Mitchell who started all the trouble in the first place by ditching Nicholson for obnoxious alpha male bully Brett Halsey. (Swanson sums her up as "selfish, vulgar, cruel...rotten!!")

The film's unsung hero is Jordan Whitfield as Sam, the black dishwasher who keeps his head throughout the crisis. That we don't see him get his due as Hero of the Hour at the film's conclusion is one of several issues left unresolved (including the ultimate fates of both Nicholson and Halsey) when the end credits roll.
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A film that's a B movie classic, special because of legendary Jack's first screen appearance and well done at it's time from Roger Corman.
Danny Blankenship11 January 2008
After all these years it's finally a treat to watch this B film classic from 1958 "Cry Baby Killer". It's very special because it's Nicholson's first film appearance, and a must see for any die hard fans of Jack. The film is pretty low key and stays simple with it's plot and the acting is straight forward, and Nicholson does good work for a newcomer even though his voice and many words are spoken with a soft slow draw accent. At it's time Roger Corman really done this film short in time length, yet the concept and plot of 1958 was a little ahead of it's time with the hostage taking and media circus developing which would be so common in many later action and adventure films. Nicholson in his first film debut plays loner and rebel type teenager Jimmy Wallace who is defeated in a brawl with thugs resulting in his girl leaving him. Jack's character Jimmy like so many of his later anti-hero type characters develops the big chip on the shoulder and the feeling for macho acts takes place. Then Corman's direction pulls out all the drama and stops when Jimmy is next in a brawl he grabs for a gun panics and shoots, leading him to take cover in a storeroom with a mom and her baby setting up a long standoff! Good suspense for 1958 is added by showing police interrogation and media interviews and flashing cameras the type of circus film lovers would later so commonly see in the 80's and 90's. So the direction and plot line was for 1958 ahead of it's time, good job by Roger Corman. All in all nothing great, yet for a 1958 film the plot and acting is decently good and a real treat to see since it's Jack's first actual screen time a must see for Nicholson enthusiast.
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About what I expected...
MartinHafer25 May 2011
Warning: Spoilers
I sought out this film because it was produced by Roger Corman and I have long respected his ability to do a lot with very little. While some of his films are indeed ultra-cheesy, so often they ended up far better than if other had been given such limited resources and, oddly, his movie always seemed to make money (the one exception--a William Shatner film that actually was pretty good). So, while I was not expecting gold, I was expecting a low budget film that somehow is a bit better than you'd normally see.

It begins with a group of punks working over young Jack Nicholson. They beat him within an inch of his life and you almost think they killed him. Well, it turned out the gang is controlled by a bit of a mobster and he ordered this because the two were arguing over a girl (who, incidentally, wasn't a very good actress). Later, after Nicholson returns to the restaurant where the gang hangs out, there is a mini-rumble and the gang (armed with brass knuckles and guns) are about to hurt him one more time--when the guy pulls out a gun and shoots two of his many attackers. They clearly had it coming and he was defending himself, but he foolishly panics--taking some prisoners and barricading himself in a store room. Most of the film consists of the police manning the barricade and trying to convince him to surrender. For what it is, it's quite tense and interesting and is about what I expected--good low-budget entertainment.

By the way, maybe it's only a coincidence but two of the LA cop characters are named 'Gannon' and 'Reed'--two names of officers from later Jack Webb programs ("Dragnet" and "Adam-12".
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Only good thing here is Nicholson
preppy-36 December 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Jack Nicholson's film debut. He plays a teenage kid who shoots two other guys (off screen) and panics. He thinks he's killed them (he hasn't) so he gets some hostages and holes up in a room. Soon the police have the place surrounded and order him to let the hostages go and give up. But he's scared and doesn't know what to do.

Basically this could be a pretty good half hour TV show...but this is stretched out to 75 minutes! The script is bland and very by the numbers. All the characters are clichéd and I saw every line of dialogue coming. This would be a thoroughly forgotten little movie by now if it weren't for Nicholson. Seeing him so young is fascinating in itself and seeing him doing his best with such subpar material is interesting. Unfortunately he's NOT the whole movie. There are long stretches when he's not even on screen which are more than a little boring. The acting by everybody is no more than OK but nobody could make this script interesting. So worth seeing if you're a Nicholson fan but it's a pretty bad film. A 3.
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