|"Why did Jimmy always have to stunt and show off?"|
Made by "the king of calamity" Sid Davis on a budget of approximately $1000 (no, really -- you can look it up), The Bicycle Clown is pretty typical of the safety films and other cautionary tales of its time in that it lays most of the blame for accidents on the hapless victims themselves. Sid Davis became particularly famous for his style of "guidance" films that invariably looked into dark subjects in which the young victims never fare well. The flat, judgmental narration is always particularly harsh towards the "wise guy" kids who "think they know better" and always end up suffering (or dying, in some cases) because they "did first and thought last." Some of Davis's other notable or notorious films include The Dangerous Stranger (about child molesters), Seduction of the Innocent (about drug addiction), Live and Learn (safety), and perhaps the most notorious and offensive "social education" film ever made, 1961's Boys Beware (about the dangers of homosexuality).
|The Bicycle Clown includes some helpful and dynamic illustrations.|
|Jimmy was more interested in flashy streamers and |
other "ornaments" than in keeping his bike adjusted.
Next, the older brother talks to Jimmy's friends who tell him how Jimmy loved to "clown and show off" on his bike. Although he made the other kids laugh, the narrator observes, "he didn't realize they were laughing at him, not with him." Needless to say, by this time in the film, a deeply disturbing psychological profile begins to manifest itself -- not just in Jimmy who "foolishly thought that childish showing off" was the way to gain social acceptance, but also in the obsessed older brother narrator who apparently is going to grill everyone in his town relentlessly until he gets the answers he's after.
|Jimmy was one of the best riders in his|
class, but. . .
|. . . he would regularly take his life into his own hands!|
|By being extra polite with Ponch (or is that John?) Jimmy the|
sociopath was always able to avoid serious trouble.
We also learn how little "Mikie" (seen riding double with Jimmy) hero-worshipped Jimmy -- which of course fed Jimmy's deeply disturbed hunger for acceptance.
After visiting with the route manager at the local newspaper, we learn that Jimmy was a "dependable worker," but (again) there had been many complaints from customers about Jimmy's reckless bike riding. It's then that we see him speeding down the sidewalk, just narrowly missing slamming into a woman with a baby carriage.
We learn from the newspaper route manager that "Jimmy had the foolish and dangerous 'it won't happen to me' attitude." That's always a serious condemnation in a Sid Davis film.
|The route manager had to give Jimmy a good talking-to.|
|Jimmy scatters a group of girls to get some laughs from his buddies.|
|"Although his friends watched and laughed when he showed off, |
they knew he was being foolish and childish." Sure they did.
|Like all of Sid Davis's ultra-low-budget films, we see the obvious set-up for a disaster . . .|
|. . . then cut away to the shocked reaction of onlookers. . .|
|. . . then the tragic results.|
So finally, we have a complete picture of Jimmy, and it isn't good. Jimmy was clearly a deeply disturbed young man who desperately tried to make up for his various disappointments and failures through reckless stunting and showing off -- often in an effort to raise his status in the eyes of classmates and younger hero-worshipers. His insatiable hunger for acceptance drove him to dangerous, life-threatening behavior. Of course, it doesn't occur to the young narrator, and probably not even to Sid Davis himself, but maybe young Jimmy needs some serious psychological counseling. Not only that, but it raises a question for me which is -- where the hell are Jimmy's parents in all of this? And could this whole tragedy have been avoided if his parents had just shown him a little love once in a while? Could his pathological need for acceptance stem from a lack of support and guidance from his conspicuously absent parents?
|At least you're alive, Jimmy. Some of Sid Davis's little victims don't make it.|
Maybe now Jimmy will learn that "a good bike rider who takes chances isn't a good bike rider at all."
In the end, I can't decide if The Bicycle Clown would serve better as a bicycle safety film, or a lesson in child psychology.
Enjoy The Bicycle Clown here!
Enjoy The Bicycle Clown here!