The Cross and the Switchblade

Theatrical Release: June 17, 1970
DVD Release: April 1, 2004
The Cross and the Switchblade


Based on a true story, David Wilkerson (Pat Boone) is the small-town preacher who gets caught in the shadows of a crime-ridden neighborhood in New York City. He encounters a gang led by Nicky Cruz (Erik Estrada), and David brings a message of hope to the angry youths. Guided by the street-wise Little Bo (Jo-Ann Robinson), David quickly learns about the neighborhood and how to approach the cynical juveniles. This moralistic family film attempts to give hope to those who walk in the shadows of darkness. Despite the preachy nature of the plot, it is a well-done film and Pat Boone’s character relates well to the targeted white, middle-class audience. Nicky Cruz would go on to become an ordained minister, preaching the gospel due to the initial efforts of David Wilkerson.

Dove Review

This film premiered in 1970 and although the style of clothing has changed a lot, and the music, the theme of rebellion and the need for love is still as current and relevent as it was then. This film is based on David Wilkerson’s book which carries the same title, “The Cross and the Switchblade.” This movie is not for those under twelve. Although not gratuitous, there are some scenes of blood as a result of the gangs’ rumbles, which include using baseball bats, blades, and chains. Drug use is shown several times too but there is redemption for many of these characters as Wilkerson’s preaching wins some of them over, including his hardest case–Nicky Cruz, played by Eric Estrada.

There is talk of drug use and prostitution and a few girls wear short skirts, but the redemptive qualities of this film are worth seeing, so we award this film four doves and approve it for twelve and up.

Content Description

Faith: None
Integrity: None
Sex: Woman told to prostitute herself for drug money; teens making out at party.
Language: D-4; H-3; B-2; A-1; OMG-1; Cr*p-1; Sexual slang-1; Racial Slur-1
Violence: Several rumbles which include baseball bats, chains and blades; some blood shown; man wants woman to kill Wilkerson; woman tries to cut Wilkerson; man's hand is cut; kids rob car; officer shoots gun in air to get gang's attention; man slaps Wilkerson; police chase gang; a man falls and dies; a fire is started.
Drugs: Drug use; needles are seen; a needle is about to be shot into arm; smoking marijuana; brief drinking scene;smoking tobacco; a man gives woman free drugs to hook her for future drug sales.
Nudity: A couple of women with short skirt; man in his underwear.
Other: A lack of respect toward authority and minister.


Company: Vanguard
Writer: James Bonnet and Don Murray and David Wilkerson
Director: Don Murray
Producer: Dick Ross
Genre: Drama
Runtime: 106 min.
Reviewer: Edwin L. Carpenter