On a city's mean streets, the boys join gangs at 15. Frankie leads the Hornets: he's 18, seething, coiled. When a neighbor goes to the cops after seeing one of the Hornets with a zip gun, Frankie vows to kill the old guy, hatching a plan using Lou, who smiles and smokes, and "Baby," the 15-year-old son of an immigrant shopkeeper. Ben Wagner, the social worker at a neighborhood settlement house, gets wind of the plan and tries to break through to Frankie. Frankie's brother Richie, who's about 12, worships and fears Frankie; he also figures out what his brother is up to. Is Frankie doomed to crash and burn at 18? Written by
Don Siegel says in his biography that he argued much on the set with actor Mark Rydell because he did not shoot Rydell's face enough. See more »
[after he's slapped]
Don't you ever touch me!
I'm your mother... MOTHER! God help me when I say it! The word feels dirty in my mouth! 'Don't touch me, mother?' Well, you listen to me! I touched you once! I gave birth to you. I touched you all over! You're part of my body, and every time I think of it, I wanna wash! You're garbage, Frankie Dane! I give you up! I give you up!
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There's very little action in this film. Set mostly on one grungy New York City street, the story revolves around a group of teenage hoodlums, members of the "Hornets" street gang. Their leader is Frankie (John Cassavetes), a super-angry dude who lives with his whiny mom and little brother in a cheap, squalid apartment overlooking the street. These guys, about 12 of them, talk tough. But that's mostly all it is ... talk.
The story could easily be seen as a stage play. Three or four studio sets with cheap production design and controlled lighting could function as a backdrop for the performers. That's exactly the way the film comes across. Dialogue is important since there's so much of it. In this movie, the dialogue is acceptable, though a tad melodramatic. There's lots of expressed anger, angst, and whining. And an adult social worker and the father of one of the gang members dish out lots of paternalistic advice to Frankie and his buddies.
High-contrast B&W lighting is probably the best element of the film. It conveys a noir atmosphere. The lighting, combined with the prod design, sets, and costumes, conveys a dreary, depressing tone. Background music is unremarkable. Casting is acceptable. Acting is well above average. As Frankie's mom, Virginia Gregg gives an especially nice performance.
It's not a bad movie. But I prefer more action and changes in scenery, and less talk. If the viewer likes stage plays with some good acting, "Crime In The Streets" is a pretty good 1950s juvenile delinquency film.
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