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
I don't want to elaborate too much on what's already been said, but 1956's "Crime in the Streets" becomes claustrophobic very quickly because of the shabby, back-lot "New York street" that screams artificial 1930s Hollywood set a la "Dead End" and "Scarface." Since this is an Allied Artists film, I'm guessing it was shot at the old Monogram Studios on Sunset Boulevard in East Hollywood, which was shabby even in the 1930s. Perhaps Don Siegel was looking for claustrophobia and delapidation to enhance the atmosphere, but more likely they were simply a product of a low budget. (After all, Siegel had already used the real-life streets of Hollywood and the nearby town of Sierra Madre to great effect a year earlier in "Invasion of the Body Snatchers.") Though no source material is given for "Crime in the Streets" except for the original teleplay, it owes quite a lot to Hal Ellson and other social workers-turned-writers who cranked out top-selling novels in the late '40s and early '50s, such as "Duke" and "The Golden Spike," that explored the tribulations of growing up in poor, urban, ethnic American neighborhoods. Also unacknowledged is Clyde McPhatter and the Drifters' rhythm and blues hit, "Such a Night," which provided Mark Rydell's character (clearly the movie's most interesting) with the "ba-dooby-dobby-doo" riff that became a jazz motif when the boys were awaiting their big crime in the alley.
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