I recently had the opportunity to watch a DVD of a film that was produced in 1970, The Cross and the Switchblade. The movie, based on the 1962 book of the same name, tells the real-life story of David Wilkerson (Pat Boone) and former gang member Niki Cruz (Erik Estrada).
It opens with Wilkerson’s first night in New York City when his car was stripped while he slept in the back seat. Despite the tough welcome to the Big City, Wilkerson begins to encounter New York’s so-called “worst” — street people many would call thugs, confronting them love and compassion.
He refuses to get angry with those that steal from him or otherwise, at times, threaten him. Time after time, he remains calm, even when gang member Niki Cruz and others get angry with him, confronting him with knives. Instead, Wilkerson responds with acts of kindness; for example, with the help of a local police officer, he holds a youth rally for the area kids. The ending, if you don’t already know the story is surprising.
Eventually, and beyond the scope of the movie, Wilkerson went on to found the megachurch known as the Times Square Church.
Even if you know the story as I do, having grown up with it throughout the ’80s, it’s an entertaining movie. I really enjoyed watching the film and have screened it several times over the years. So, on the basis of the story alone, I give the film five stars, but, unfortunately, although The Cross and Switchblade is a fantastic story, the acting quite up to par. There are portions of the film, where the acting feels a bit choppy, where the acting doesn’t seem fluid. However, the movie was made in 1970, after all, and the film is better than many other films of that same time period. For that reason, I give the film an overall rating of a four.
The Cross and Switchblade is available on DVD, and for streaming.
Reviewers Rating: 4 stars