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Manny (Brett Halsey) a local teenaged wannabe bigshot, has made Carol
(Carolyn Mitchell) his girl, and this night at the diner, he's very
publicly spiking her drink, just to show what a bigshot he is. Of course,
he's nothing but hot air, as when Carol's former boyfriend, the much more
modest Jimmy (Jack Nicholson), confronted him, he managed to beat him up
only because two of his sidekicks were holding Jimmy. Jimmy's hurt bad, on
the inside and the outside, and exactly because of this he needs to go to
the diner to challenge Manny for a rematch. Manny's of course the same
coward as always, so he drags his sidekicks along again ... but one of
them's packing heat, and when Jimmy gets his hands on the gun he fires it
- and Manny's hit and breaks down. Thinking he has shot Manny dead, Jimmy
takes hostages - cook Sam (Smoki Whitfield) and Mrs Maxton (Barbara
Knudson) and her baby boy - and locks himself in a storage room with them
to ... well, he hasn't really thought that through. On the outside though,
the police is quick to arrive, as is a mob of angry onlookers, as is the
local TV station, and all of this only adds tension to the situation.
in the storage room, Jimmy is losing his cool more and more, police Lt
Porter (Harry Lauter) tries to piece together what has happened and who's
the actual baddie of the piece. But knowing what has actually happened and
convincing Jimmy to give himself up are two different things entirely, and
in the end, Jimmy only lays down his weapons and releases his hostages
thanks to Carol's pleas to Jimmy's conscience. And yes, everybody so far
has figured Carol as one of the baddies of the piece ...
this film is of course mainly significant for giving a very young Jack
Nicholson his first lead - and he really shines in this one, too -, but
it's also interesting in other departments, like that it doesn't simply
relie on a genre formula but does instead create an interesting situation
restricted to only a handful of locations and revolving mainly around two
characters, Jimmy on the inside and Porter on the outside. In a way, this
movie almost feels like a post-modern thriller with traces of neo-realism
rather than your typical juvenile delinquency piece ... but only almost,
because a rather lazy directorial effort kills all the artistic
aspirations the film might have had, and the script itself could have done
with a bit of polishing up and without quite a few scenes that are nothing
but boring genre mainstays.
That's not to say that The Cry Baby
Killer is a particularly bad film, it clearly isn't, it's just never
allowed to live up to its potential ...