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
For revenge and thrills, juvenile delinquent gang leader John Cassavetes (as Frank "Frankie" Dane) plots to kill a man. Nail-biting Sal Mineo (as Angelo "Baby" Gioia) will lure the man into an alley, open-mouthed Mark Rydell (as Lou Macklin) will hold him down, and Mr. Cassavetes will slice and dice him to death. Little brother Peter Votrian (as Richie Dane) overhears Cassavetes planning the murder, and tells concerned social worker James Whitmore (as Ben Wagner). But, try as he might, Mr. Whitmore is unable to reform Cassavetes before the scheduled stabbing.
The excellent script for "Crime in the Streets" was written by Reginald Rose, and had previously been seen as a live installment ABC-TV's "The Elgin Hour" (a dramatic anthology series). Television in the 1950s became fertile ground for great performances, and Whitmore's last attempt to reach Cassavetes, on the fire escape, is certainly high drama. The entire production is wonderfully acted; and, while Cassavetes is clearly far too old for the part, at least he gets a chance to repeat his role for film.
Mineo gives the "Hornets" some youth appeal, and shows off his ability to react to other actors. Rydell, who became quite a successful director, is interesting. The lesser roles are fine. And, seeming to come out of left field, young Votrian is startlingly good. The specially designed outdoor set gives it a surreal quality, and director Don Siegel manages it beautifully. The plot is almost Shakespearian, and with the addition of music, you could imagine a certain "West Side Story" being born...
********* Crime in the Streets (6/10/56) Don Siegel, Reginald Rose ~ John Cassavetes, James Whitmore, Sal Mineo, Peter Votrian
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