The Cross and the Switchblade (film)

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The Cross and the Switchblade
The Cross and the Switchblade (film).jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Don Murray
Produced by Ken Curtis
Tom Harris
Dick Ross
Screenplay by Don Murray
James Bonnet
Based on The Cross and the Switchblade  by John and Elizabeth Sherrill  by David Wilkerson
Starring Pat Boone
Erik Estrada
Jacqueline Giroux
Jo-Ann Robinson
Dino de Filippi
Music by Ralph Carmichael
Cinematography Julian C. Townsend
Edited by Angelo Ross
Distributed by Gateway Films (U.S.)
20th Century Fox (UK)
Release date
  • June 17, 1970 (1970-06-17) (U.S.)
Running time
106 min. (approx.)
Language English

The Cross and the Switchblade is a 1970 Christian film starring Pat Boone as David Wilkerson and Erik Estrada as Nicky Cruz, the teen gang member whose life was transformed by Wilkerson's ministry. The film was based on a non-fiction book of the same name. It has been viewed by an estimated 50 million people in over 30 languages in 150 countries, according to World Film Crusade.[citation needed]


Crusading minister gets involved in the lives of members of a New York City street gang.


The film is based on the true story of David Wilkerson (Pat Boone), a small-town preacher who gets caught in the shadows of a crime-ridden neighborhood in New York City. He encounters the Mau Maus, 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. David came to New York City from a Pittsburgh suburb with little money, and is put up in a small street chapel owned by a pastor with a loving family who supports David in his work and offers to help with food and shelter. Cruz at first dismisses Wilkerson as a joke, then as a conspiracy to break up the Mau Maus, serving to only intensify his desire to be rid of the "preacher man". Nicky's girlfriend Rosa prostitutes herself in order to support her heroin addiction, and later begs David to help her sober her drug habits. David realistically does not think Rosa can handle her heroin problem without medical attention, but agrees to allow the pastor and his wife to have Rosa live with them and stand vigil as she goes through difficult withdrawals. After Rosa is sober, she tries to convince Nicky that David comes to them out of love, but Nicky becomes more and more frustrated. When David tries an attempt to reach out to all gang members in the area through a revival, the pastor convinces the NYPD not to survey their neighborhood in order to have the gangs think they are being left alone. Nicky agrees with Big Cat, the leader of the rival Bishops, that they should rumble at the revival since no one would expect that. However, during David's sermon, his message that no one can be labeled and Christ's death on the Cross reaches Nicky, and he stands up to Big Cat who is ready to attack David. The film concludes by saying that in the question of the Cross and the Switchblade, the Cross proved stronger.

Nicky Cruz would go on to become an ordained minister, preaching the Gospel due to the initial efforts of David Wilkerson. In the end they start a center called Teen Challenge to support teens.


Actor Role
Pat Boone David Wilkerson
Erik Estrada Nicky Cruz
Jacqueline Giroux Rosa
Dino DeFilippi Israel
Jo-Ann Robinson Little Bo
Gil Frazier Big Cat


The film received positive reviews from Christians and moviegoers alike, it currently holds a 73% audience approval score on Rotten Tomatoes, with an average rating of 3.9/5 from 820 reviews.[1] Pat Boone regards the film as one of his favourites. "I took a huge gamble with that film," he says. "Financially it didn't pay off because I did it for next to nothing - I virtually did it as a charity but I don't regret it at all. Within its limitations it was a very well made film."[2]


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