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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Teens > Education Of Sonny Carson (VCI DVD)

The Education of Sonny Carson


Picture: C     Sound: C     Extras: B+     Film: A-



There is a real posing problem still today in terms of urban crime and the fact that most African Americans are still growing up in a society where they are a minority figure.  Rap music in general focuses on the idea of ‘easy money’, which is part of the problem because to some the only way to get anywhere in life is to cheat, steal, or kill.  Gang violence has always been a problem in the urban community, especially around larger cities.  This brings us to the semi-forgotten, yet powerful 1974 film The Education of Sonny Carson, which has been cited in the work of Wu Tang Clan and Lauren Hill. 


The film is based on the autobiography of Sonny Carson, which is part of the reason why the film is accurate and effective.  The film deals with Carson’s life as he grows up in the ghetto and finds a life based around gangs with the only way to get out being luck or death.  Taking place in Brooklyn Carson regardless of his actions only ends up in more trouble because even being one of the best students in his school his path ahead has been laid.  He ends up in prison, where he realizes that he must change directions in life, but feels trapped.  Once again this goes back to the fact that some people cannot change the outcome of who they are because of the color of their skin.  Carson gets out of prison only to find the world around him in more chaos as those closest to him are hooked on drugs and the violence and greed is only becoming worse. 


Training Day (2001) tried to address some of these issues, but became lost in the fact that it didn’t know how to pull everything together.  It did hit some of the points that violence can be a vicious circle.  The Education of Sonny Carson is an effective film to be seen even now 30+ years later.  In fact, looking back now it is easy to see why this film has been an inspiration to many as well as a thoughtful interpretation of that type of life.  The film utilizes some very clever tactics bringing the life of Sonny Carson some real dimension.


VCI has brought forth one of their best catalog titles to the DVD format to date, with a nice amount of extras making this a sought after title.  First there is the film, which has been issued here with its original 1.77 X 1 transfer, which is not perfect, but at least the film is available widescreen.  The softness and detail can be a real problem with colors looking very muted and contrast is off.  The mono soundtrack is nothing impressive either with dialogue and music being somewhat harsh too, and an unintended echo during an early chapter.


The real treat with this film though is the extras and just the film itself.  The audio commentary is one of the better supplements on DVD to date offering insight from the real Sonny Carson and Director Michael Campus.  It is sad that Campus never went onto bigger projects given that this film is that smart and well executed.  Given that this was a low-budget film to begin with Campus was able to do very much with very little.  There is also a full biography on Sonny Carson, a photo album, and the theatrical trailer on the DVD as well making this a nice edition.



-   Nate Goss


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