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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
"Crime In the Streets" tells the story of growing up in the slums, and what some young people will do to get out, or just to have a few kicks to help them forget their dead-end lives. This film's non-existent budget actually helps to add to the realism, with sets that are bleak and cheap-looking. Back alleys never looked so lurid and dangerous as they do in this sadly forgotten film. "Crime In the Streets" features some wonderful performances, especially Sal Mineo, who doesn't have enough scenes, but when he is on camera, the magic is there. Anyone who is familiar with Mineo's work knows what I'm talking about. The scene between Sal and his father is unforgettable. The actress who plays Frankie Dane's mother also gives an amazing, dramatic performance as the over-worked waitress, abandoned with two sons, all living in a dismal tenement apartment. John Cassevetes is waaaaay too old to play the 18 year old delinquent, though his performance is fine. It is depressing to witness how badly people treat each other in this film, and it is particularly disturbing to see Frankie abuse his little brother. He really treats this child savagely, hitting him, threatening him, and holding knives to his throat. I also should mention the fantastic jazz score featured, that compliments the dark, shadowy images and the taught drama unfolding on the screen. "Crime In the Streets" is almost impossible to find as there has never been an official video or DVD release. My copy is a bootleg DVD, and the quality is good enough. This and other early Sal Mineo films deserve to be re-discovered, but I don't imagine this one being re-issued any time soon. This is probably one of the best in the 50's 'JD' category.
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