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
Working on a painfully thin budget from Allied Artists, Don Siegel managed to fashion an urban tale of violence and juvenile delinquency in Crime In The Streets. The urban sets remind me a lot of Otto Preminger's The Man With A Golden Arm which came out a year before. And the delinquents aren't romanticized as they are in West Side Story.
James Whitmore stars as a local social worker working out of a settlement house who keeps his ear to the ground for any rumblings of a rumble on the mean streets of his urban neighborhood. With two gangs, the Hornets and the Dukes, he's got his hands full.
It's the Hornets here that concern the viewer of Crime In The Streets. They have a charismatic leader in young John Cassavetes who at 27 is way too old to be playing an 18 year old, but so did most of the kids look way too old in Glenn Ford's class in The Blackboard Jungle. Cassavetes is repeating his role from this same story made as television drama two years earlier. Also repeating are Mark Rydell as one of Cassavetes lieutenants who really isn't wrapped too tight and Will Kulava as Sal Mineo's father.
When local citizen Malcolm Atterbury reports one of their peers for having a zip gun, Cassavetes sets in motion a plan to kill him. Mineo and Rydell are in on it. Whitmore gets wind of it and does what he can to stop it.
Don Siegel gets good performances out of his ensemble cast. One player I failed to mention is Virginia Gregg who may have gotten her career role as the mother of Cassavetes and Peter Votrian. Cassavetes she feels is a lost cause, she's concerned about Votrian who idolizes his brother and might get into the gang culture. Gregg is great example of one who was probably a battered wife when she had a husband living in the place and one who is too shell shocked to deal with her rebellious son.
Though it's dated Crime In The Streets is still entertaining and it's a good sociological treatise on juvenile delinquency.
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