June 24, 2011 Leave a comment
“These teenagers are going to prison.”
That’s the first line (excluding a warning about language) spoken by Peter Falk, who passed away yesterday, in the Oscar-winning 1978 documentary “Scared Straight!” Out of context it would sound like “Columbo” had solved a case involving youths, and Falk’s famous TV role is likely why he was hired to narrate (and momentarily appear in) the introductory part of Arnold Shapiro’s legendary film. Really the teens are going to Rahway State Prison for a three-hour “sentence” to be, yes, “scared straight” by a number of threatening, foul-mouthed (hence the language warning) inmates.
Even if you haven’t seen the original doc, you’ve likely seen any one of the many parodies it inspired, such as a recent one on “Saturday Night Live.” And if you have seen the doc, you might have seen the Apted-like revisited version hosted by Danny Glover which shows us what’s happened to those teens in the 20 years since the film was made. I would embed this version as it’s on YouTube, but due to copyright issues the video is silent, which means you can only see Falk, not hear him. But you can check it out with sound now at LiveLeak.com or rent the whole DVD from Netflix.