In 1970, even a full century-plus after the Civil War had ended, the whole “racial desegregation” thing was still not going very well, despite the very best efforts put forth by all civilized people. Halls of Anger finds Calvin Lockhart smack dab in the middle of the racial tensions present in a predominately black school when a small group of white students are transferred there. Once he had graduated Lafayette High School, ex-basketball player-turned-teacher Quincy Davis (Lockhart) vowed to never return there. That all changes once the board of school supervisors decide to promote him to vice principal at Lafayette so that he can oversee the “integration.”
As you might expect, things don’t go over very well. Quincy discovers that the black kids have not been properly educated, which is something the reigning (white) principal doesn’t give a damn about — he just wants to get them out of his school as soon as possible because he has found trying to reach them is futile. And so, Mr. Davis does his best to get them to read by having them thumb their way through dirty books (hey, whatever works, right?). Some of those same students, however, are busy laying the groundwork for a battlefield — such as young J.T. Watson (James A. Watson, Jr.), who resents the very presence of the white kids.
Co-starring Janet MacLachlan, Otis Day (under the pseudonym Dewayne Jessie), Ed Asner and featuring early roles by Jeff Bridges and Rob Reiner (the latter actually did have hair once, believe it or not), Halls of Anger is a product of its time — and has become somewhat dated over the years. That said, though, Halls of Anger is still a decent flick with some good performances — and the message is just as significant today as it was then. Frankly, I’m glad MGM has saw it fit to include in their Limited Edition Collection. The Manufactured-on-Demand release presents the movie in an anamorphic widescreen aspect ratio with mono sound (the films has a nice soundtrack by Dave Grusin) and includes a full-frame theatrical trailer.