The Boy Who Caught a Crook

Movie review by
Renee Schonfeld, Common Sense Media
The Boy Who Caught a Crook Movie Poster Image
Old-fashioned crime tale is hokey, sometimes brutal.
  • NR
  • 1961
  • 72 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Illustrates that heroism often means facing danger in order to protect others. Even lies told with good intentions can lead to trouble.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Young Jimmy proves to be a brave boy, a loyal friend, and a good son; he makes mistakes along the way, along with some misjudgments, but learns valuable lessons about honesty and responsibility. Jimmy's mother encourages her son to tell a lie; then she, too, realizes that she's made a mistake and makes every effort to correct it. She is well-intentioned, but often acts first, thinks later. The one African-American in the film is compassionate, pro-active, and in a position of responsibility.


While there's not a lot of it, the violence in this movie looks very real. The villain, a scar-faced criminal, hits Jimmy several times and beats up an elderly man. Some of the blows take place off-camera, but are accompanied by harsh hitting sounds and cries from the victim. There are a number of suspenseful scenes in which Jimmy, his dog, and his mother are either stalked, overpowered, or threatened with death by the "scar-faced man." Jimmy is captured and tied up and gagged. Spoiler alert: The villain is shot by police and falls to the ground in the final action.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Some cigarette smoking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Boy Who Caught a Crook is an old-fashioned, black-and-white crime drama with some violent and suspenseful scenes that may be scary for kids. First released in 1961, the movie has a juvenile hero and was probably made to appeal to a family audience. However, modern viewers may not agree that scenes in which an elderly homeless man is beaten and a young child is hit, threatened, and told to lie are "family-friendly." As in many movies reflective of that era, Jimmy is on his own much of the time and allowed to move through the city neighborhood by himself. Lying (sometimes with good intentions) plays a big part in the plot: Jimmy lies; his mother asks him to lie; another sympathetic character tells a lengthy untrue story. Because of that, honesty and dishonesty hover in a gray area throughout the film.

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What's the story?

Jimmy (Roger Mobley), aided by his lovable homeless friend "The Colonel" (old-timer Don Beddoe), delivers his morning newspapers. At exactly the same time, a scar-faced thief on the run from police throws a briefcase filled with stolen money into a vacant lot. When Jimmy and the Colonel find the case, the mystery begins. The money disappears; the crook tracks down Jimmy; and The Colonel may actually be a liar and thief himself. Tensions multiply as the villain gets desperate and Jimmy, his widowed mom, a newspaper reporter, The Colonel, and an adorable puppy all find themselves in grave danger.

Is it any good?

Black-and-white, terminally old-fashioned, with vast holes in both logic and continuity, The Boy Who Caught a Crook is unlikely to appeal to most people except as an example of 1960s B-movies.

The director, Edward L. Cahn, is famous for scores of cheap, poorly written crime thrillers, prison movies, and westerns, some of which are cult favorites. But this movie, despite a likeable juvenile hero and a sweet old man, is far from noteworthy. Moments of brutality and an unlikely resolution to the core mystery are other key reasons why the film offers little for a family audience.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the violence in this movie. Did it seem real to you? How was it different from what is often called "cartoon violence"?

  • Discuss "good" lies and "bad" lies? Which lies in this story were meant to help not hurt? Did they? When, if ever, is there a reason not to tell the truth?

  • Why did Jimmy's mother tell him not to mention the scar-faced man to the police? Did you agree or disagree with her? Why?

Movie details

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For kids who love classics

Themes & Topics

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