THE DEVIL’S PLAYGROUND
1h 47min | Drama | Unrated | 01 October 1979 (USA)
Director: Fred Schepisi
Writers: Fred Schepisi
Starring: Charles McCallum, John Frawley, Arthur Dignam
Cast & Crew: Charles McCallum, John Frawley, Arthur Dignam, Nick Tate, Simon Burke, Jonathan Hardy, Gerry Duggan, Peter Cox, Thomas Keneally, Sheila Florance, John Diedrich, Alan Cinis, Richard Morgan, Jeremy Kewley, Fred Schepisi, Bruce Smeaton, Ian Baker, Brian Kavanagh
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REVIEW – An Open Letter to Movie Makers: Ahem, my name is James DePaolo. I am Catholic. Stop picking on our religion. I know we are an easy target with questionable ways of religious practices, but we are not all bad people. Love James. P.S. Enjoy this review.
I am a child of the 70’s. When films like Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist first came out, they caused such an uproar. I can remember in 1974, people were on television thinking that the devil possessed them. Now, picture this, Barbara Walters is conducting an interview while someone is telling her that satan has their soul. I think she could relate, she sold her soul many times. When I think of director Fred Schepisi, I think of one of my favorite films growing up, Roxanne. This film came out in the Spirit of 1976. Where the earlier films we discussed dealt with the taboo topic of satanism, this film deals with another taboo topic in religion: sexuality. This film is sort of autobiographical. This film takes place in a 1950’s Catholic seminary. As the film starts we meet Tom Allan, who is a young teen. Tom, you know early on there’s something going on with him. He wets his bed, for that he gets humiliated and picked on by some of the students. The story starts to really open itself up when we meet Fitz. Fitz, is a fairly older guy who Tom maintains a friendship with.
It seems that much like Tom, Fitz also has his doubts if he is ready to be a man of the cloth. Tom decides to turn to the instructors, who also seem to be just as dumbfounded and confused as he is. The script for this film is so random. You really do not know what can come out of Tom’s mouth one scene to the next. It was like Todd Solondz took notes for his future. We watch in one instance when Tom is inside a confessional admitting to masturbation. It just so happens that the other students know that he a chronic masturbator as well and it creates a tension that is so awkward and cruel. This film is out of left field for me. I was expecting a horror film and I got instead a Stand by Me in a religious setting. This coming of age film cuts deep and is so effective. The script was powerful and very gripping for me. To think this film is what 43 years old and it still holds up, is a good sign. I found myself enjoying this film because we can all relate to a chronic masturbator in a religious setting. We all have been there. The acting was so perfect. They drew you in like a fly to a light and never let you leave. The pacing was fine for the most part. This film really was a treasure for me. I feel if you want a film to remind you how emotionally invested you can get in a story, this one’s for you. This film opens a door that makes childhood feel as awkward and memorable as it possibly can. Once this film ends, you will not forget what you just witnessed. This film, I am just shocked was never brought up before I saw it tonight.
THE DEVIL’S PLAYGROUND | Official Trailer: