17-year-old Jimmy Wallace (Jack Nicholson in his film debut) is brutally beaten by Manny Cole (Brett Halsey) and two of his teenage punk friends, Joey (Ralph Reed) and Al (James Fillmore), because Manny wants to move in on Jimmy’s girl, Carole Fields (Carolyn Mitchell).
Later, Jimmy shows up at Klix Drive-In eatery – the hangout of the teenage crowd – to take Carole away and challenge Manny to a fight.
Manny’s two buddies move in with brass knuckles, and one of them pulls a pistol, which falls to the ground in the scuffle. Jimmy picks it up and shoots Manny and Al.
A police officer orders Jimmy to surrender, but he panics, thinking he killed the pair (he hasn’t, by the way) and is headed for the San Quentin gas chamber, so he dives into a small storeroom, and holds dishwasher Sam (Smoki Whitfield), Mrs Maxton (Barbara Knudson) and her baby as hostages.
A siege develops as cops, spectators, relatives and a news crew gather (with vendors selling hot dogs to the crowd!) and most of the film consists of the police trying to convince Jimmy to surrender during the ensuing standoff while head cop, Lt. Porter (Harry Lauter), questions everyone at the scene. These days the cops would probably just send in a SWAT team.
Carolyn Mitchell was Mickey Rooney’s fifth wife until she was murdered by her former boyfriend at the age of twenty-nine.
William A. Forester
Justus (Joe) Addiss