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Cooley High

Glynn Turman , Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs , Michael Schultz    PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)   DVD
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
Price: CDN$ 59.72
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Cooley High has frequently been compared to American Graffiti, and for good reason. Like that classic, Cooley High has a loose, multicharacter structure, autobiographical origins, and the rich texture of its time. Set in Chicago in 1964, the movie follows aspiring writer Preach (Glynn Turman) and local basketball star Cochise (Lawrence-Hilton Jacobs, who went on to star in Welcome Back, Kotter) as they wander their neighborhood, drifting in and out of their classes at Cooley Vocational High School. The two friends pull pranks, crash parties, commit petty crimes, and generally try to enjoy their lives in an impoverished urban environment. Preach falls in love with a smart girl named Brenda (Cynthia Davis), whom he wins over by reciting poetry--leading to one of the silliest and sweetest love scenes you'll ever see. When Preach and Cochise go on a joy ride with a pair of young hoods, they end up arrested. Their history teacher, Mr. Mason (a superb Garrett Morris), gets them off, but the hoods think the boys sold them out and come seeking revenge. Cooley High depicts the rough life of African Americans in the 1960s with honesty and humor, offering no easy solutions or pat lessons. It's a roughly made movie, but Turman and Jacobs are both excellent, and there's an attention to reality that makes it engaging, refreshing, and ultimately moving. The soundtrack is a great compilation of 1960s soul, including the Supremes, Martha and the Vandellas, Stevie Wonder, the Four Tops, and Smokey Robinson. An unjustly neglected film that deserves rediscovery. --Bret Fetzer

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Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars A coming-of-age film unlike any other I've seen March 22 2004
By Daniel Jolley TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:DVD
I worked my way backwards in time to this movie, so my reaction may be different than that of reviewers who saw Cooley High when it was released in 1975. I had never even heard of the movie until I learned that the TV show What's Happening?? was inspired in part by it. Cooley High turned out to be a much different movie than I was expecting. This isn't just three young guys hanging around having fun, this is a gritty, honest, realistic look at the experiences of a group of poor African-American teenagers living on the other side of the tracks in 1964 Chicago. The two main characters are Preacher, played by Glynn Turman, and Cochise, played by Lawrence-Hilton Jacobs. In case you have the same questions I had, let me go ahead and give you the answers: Yes, Glynn Turman went on to play Colonel Taylor on A Different World, and yes, Lawrence-Hilton Jacobs played Freddie "Boom Boom" Washington on Welcome Back, Kotter. Preach is a smart young man who wants to become a screenwriter in Hollywood, and Cochise is a star athlete with a recently-acquired scholarship to Grambling. The two of them are also, to be frank, juvenile delinquents who engage in all sorts of petty crimes, use drugs and alcohol, and hang out with the wrong crowd (albeit that is pretty much the only crowd there is in the neighborhood as it is presented here).
I tried to force the image of Raj from What's Happening?? onto Preach in the beginning, but it does not fit at all. Preach is smart, reads and writes poetry, studies history for fun, and even has a younger sister named Dee, but he is no Raj; he hardly ever goes to class and seems determined to flunk out of high school. Cochise is also no fan of school or studying, and he's basically coasting his way through high school, scholarship offer already in hand.
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Format:DVD
This is a wonderful, warm, and realistic look at urban teenage life in the 1960s as seen through the 1970s, and is still relevant to today because of the well-drawn characters and the low-key approach to the friendship between protagonists Cochise (basketball star) and Preacher (hidden poet).
The productions values are low and the sound is somewhat muffled -- I doubt much could be done to improve it -- but these don't stand in the way of enjoying this heart-felt film. The acting, the script, and the keep-it-real direction carry it all the way. The film moves at a leisurely pace, slowly developing our connection to the characters through clever and often hilarious scenes of teens being teens, yet hinting to us of a serious story and serious consequences developing underneath. The pay-off is emotionally explosive but completely appropriate. Few movies about high school have such a perfect mix of elements. (And the score of early 60s motown hits is a blast.)
Sadly, MGM released this disc in a pan-and-scan only version. A widescreen release would be much appreciated.
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By Samhot
Format:DVD
Never has a movie made me laugh so hard, as well as providing me with feelings of nostalgia and heartwarming sentiment. COOLEY HIGH (1975) features laugh-out-loud moments by the dozen, as well as containing many moments of reflective, poignant beauty.
The story here takes place in Chicago, 1964, and revolves around a poet named Preach (played by Glynn Turman), basketball player Cochise (played by Lawrence-Hilton Jacobs), their other buddies, and what goes on in the day-to-day lives of these teens in urban life. We witness the boys frequently cutting class, stealing food, hopping buses and trains, chasing after girls, shooting dice, getting into fights, and all other sorts of typical teen shenanigans. The aforementioned outline may sound a bit redundant for a film (or maybe it could be due to the poor description I've given), but the aforementioned aspects are integrated into a unified whole, and in a compelling way. So, in the end, things work very nicely. If there's one fault I can think of (though it doesn't bother me, but may bother others), is that the storyline moves a bit fast, and many may wish that some of the scenes (or certain aspects of the film) would have been fleshed out more.
Amidst all of the wildness, Preach meets a lovely girl named Brenda (played by Cynthia Davis), and develops a relationship with her. This is one of the few aspects of the film to soften up what otherwise may have been just a brash comedy.
While Preach, Cochise and the boys all took lighthearted pleasure in lying, cheating and stealing -- it all seemed to catch up with them in the end, as a result of one wild ride in a stolen car. And later, a simple misunderstanding leads up to the tragic finale.
Before I close this review, I'm going to list a few of my favorite funny scenes:
(1).
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Format:VHS Tape
AIP produced so many exploitation films that captured the trend of the times (or call it "rip-off"), so it is inevitable that all black-cast of "American Graffiti" came out from there. But it is the result of the product that we should care, and though sometimes branded as a clone of that much more famous film, "Cooley High" is in fact as good as George Lucas's. If you claim it is even better, I won't disagree with you.
"Cooley High" gives lots of fun with multi-layered, loosely connected characters living in inner-city Chicago in 1964. Their life at school and impoverished environment is not easy, but the film never depicts them in the negative light as is often shown in other blaxploitation films, and among them the two uproarious, riotous leads played by Glynn Turman and Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs are excellent. Turman is a bespectaled boy with a dream of becoming a writer, and with his friend Jacobs enjoy his life -- chasing a girl, cutting classes to go to a zoo hanging behind a bus, and having a midnight joy ride. But the last innocent fun turns a tragedy unexpectedly, which adds a very poignant touch to the ending of the film.
Though some claim, probably rightly, that the film's characters seem a bit stereotyped, the humor and fun are never to be dismissed, and those charming moments -- such as Turman and Jacobs (poorly) disguised as cops to get some money from prostitutes, whispering "We take bribes." -- are very funny and will be fixed in your memory. After all, the film has enoumous charms that still appeal universally, and that makes "Cooley High" an all-time classic. And listen to the great Motown soundtrack with the songs like "Fingertips Part 2" or "Dancing in the Street." Highly recommended.
It is a Japanese-made monster film "Godzilla vs the Thing" (aka. "Godzilla vs Mothra") that they are watching in the theater. It was released in USA in 1964.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent!
A sad ending for a great film. This was not some cheap, run of the mill Black 70's movie. It was well acted with a solid plot with very good direction, a definite classic.
Published on July 10 2004
4.0 out of 5 stars The Real BOYZ IN THE HOOD
People tend to have short memories. Cooley High, while an interesting film about the urban black experience seems to be dwarfed by newer black films. Read more
Published on June 29 2004 by David Krulewitch
5.0 out of 5 stars Love it
Cooley High is a wonderful movie. It is funny and sad at the same time. I am happy that it is on DVD, because I have a VHS copy and I can forward to my favorite scenes. Read more
Published on June 29 2004 by C. BULLARD
5.0 out of 5 stars A Trip Down Memory Lane
I recall watching this movie at my 7th. grade English teacher's home when it debuted because she was one of the very few people who had cable TV at this time. Read more
Published on June 22 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars Mama knows Best
This is mama's favorite movie. She used to watch it all the time on video, and I didn't have much time for it myself personally. Read more
Published on Feb. 12 2004 by "tarneshaw"
5.0 out of 5 stars Shouldn't be missed
I absolutely love this movie. It's got to be one of the best coming-of-age films ever made. All the characters seem like they fell directly out of your childhood. Read more
Published on Jan. 21 2004 by Drew Hunkins
5.0 out of 5 stars Times Have Changed
While watching the movie, I saw the scene where they had a house party. Hardly anyone does house parties. Most of the parites are in clubs where you have to pay. Read more
Published on Jan. 11 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars it's craptacular!!!!!
Well for me, the climax of this film was when they skipped school and the one guy got monkey crap thrown on him and he smelled like monkey crap and i laughed at that part cause its... Read more
Published on Oct. 29 2003 by RICHARD A. SMITH
4.0 out of 5 stars Perhaps Micheal Shultz' best work
This story one of the first and the best of African-American coming of age films. A lot of universal stuff that everyone can relate to. Read more
Published on May 3 2003 by Andre M.
5.0 out of 5 stars A Classic
Cooley High is touching, funny, and real. Not many coming of age films can boast those three qualities, for it is too easy for a filmmaker to become nostalgic, melodramatic,... Read more
Published on Dec 23 2002 by A. Customer
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