The book that this movie was based upon was written by an author named E.R. Braithwaite. The book was adapted into a screenplay by James Clavell, who also chose to direct the resulting film. With funding from UK-based investors, the film was produced on a budget of around $600,000 and became a major financial success.
The story follows a black man named Mark Thackeray, who has a bachelor's degree in engineering but is having trouble finding a job. He ends up taking on a temporary job as a teacher in a rough part of east London. The school he starts working at is known for having lawless classrooms where the kids disobey the teachers and do their own thing, but Mark decides that he isn't going to tolerate it.
Mark immediately lays down the law in his classroom and establishes himself as the alpha male. When the students fail to show interest in poetry, he decides to teach them about practical things. He also instructs them on how to act with courtesy and manners.
His students grow to respect him a great deal as a result of his practical method of teaching and courage. The ladies in the classroom go from "sluts", in his own words, to proper ladies, and the men go from ruffians to well-dressed gentlemen. The transformation is quite impressive and inspires his coworkers to believe that there actually is potential in these lower class students.
Suddenly, he finds a job with an engineering firm and is faced with a difficult decision. Should he abandon his respectable teaching profession for a higher-paying job as an engineer? Or should he continue reforming the youth that appear to be corrupted beyond repair?
The main character of Mark is played by Sidney Poitier, who has now mostly retired from filmmaking. Most of the other actors are unknowns, but include Christian Roberts, Judy Geeson, Suzy Kendall, and Faith Brook. Despite the fact that most of the cast is not well known, they all perform very well and make for convincing students.
Most of the music in the film is typical late 1960s hippy music. Although it dates the film, it does fit the era at least and sounds decent. One of the songs borrows its chorus from the title of the film and proves to be rather moving when the class sings it for Mark.
The movie was made on a low budget, but that didn't prevent it from getting some good camera work. The camera shots are mostly practical, but there are a few closeups for the more tense parts of the movie. There is also an interesting montage of shots from a museum when the class goes on a field trip.
What really brings this film together is Sidney Poitier's great acting. I have always admired his work, and this has proved to be no exception. If you get the chance to watch this movie, I highly recommend it. Teachers, in particular, should watch this film as inspiration.