Strange One, The (1957): Jack Garfein’s Film Noir about Hazing, Starring Ben Gazzara

Jack Garfein directed The Strange One, a film noir about students dealing with an ethical dilemma in a Southern military college, focusing on the dehumanization of the hazing tradition.

Produced by Sam Spiegel, it was adapted from a novel and stage play by Calder Willingham called End as a Man.

Dominated by performers of the Actors Studio, it marked the film debut of Ben Gazzara, George Peppard and Julie Wilson.

Gazzara, Pat Hingle, Peter Mark Richman and Arthur Storch reprised their roles in the stage production.

The movie is noteworthy for its portrayal of homoerotic themes, and containing a gay character, which was prohibited at the time by the Hays Code.

Cadet Staff Sergeant Jocko De Paris, a senior at the fictional Southern Military College, abuses the authority of his own rank, his father’s connections, and the college’s tradition to bully new cadets, to do as he pleases. His mates are fearful of him, and some adore him as an exemplary cadet.

One night, he frames George Avery, the son of a staff member, making it seem as if he got drunk and fell unconscious on the quadrangle. Cadet Avery is expelled, and De Paris expects all those who took part in the incident to lie during the investigation.

Two freshmen, along with the roommates of De Paris and the regimental commander, eventually decide to end De Paris’ dangerous manipulation. De Paris is cornered in a restaurant in nearby town, after many cadets band together against him.

Laurie Corger, the regimental commander, orders him to sign a statement confessing to engineering Avery’s expulsion, and then concealing the truth from investigators.

Initially reacting with smug confidence and indignant anger at being accused, De Paris finally signs the statement, asking to leave quietly. The cadets then take him away from the restaurant and start dragging the frantic and blindfolded De Paris towards a railroad track.

Instead of throwing him in front of the approaching train, they put him on board once it stops. As the train begins to move again, De Paris, having removed his blindfold, runs to the last car and rails at the watching cadets, shouting furiously, “I’ll be back! I’ll get you guys! You can’t do this to Jocko De Paris!”

Cast
Ben Gazzara as Cadet Sgt. Jocko De Paris
Pat Hingle as Cadet Harold Koble
Peter Mark Richman as Cadet Col. Laurie Corger
Arthur Storch as Cadet Simmons
Paul E. Richards as Cadet Perrin “Cockroach” McKee
Larry Gates as Maj. George Avery Sr.
Clifton James as Col. M.N. Ramsey
Geoffrey Horne as Cadet George Avery Jr.
James Olson as Cadet Roger Gatt
Julie Wilson as Peonie aka “Rosebud”
George Peppard as Cadet Robert Marquales

Note:

TCM showed this movie on January 8, 2021.