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Paul Street Boys (1929)
"A Pál -utcai fúk" (original title)

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A couple of boy gangs in Budapest constantly fight over the neighborhood turf. One of the Paul Street gang members is a highly sensitive youth that is humiliated and taunted by members of ... See full summary »



(novel), (scenario), 1 more credit »
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Cast overview:
Lászlo Gyarfas
Géza Berczy
Ernö Verebes
I. Mattyaskovsky
Imre Kis


A couple of boy gangs in Budapest constantly fight over the neighborhood turf. One of the Paul Street gang members is a highly sensitive youth that is humiliated and taunted by members of his own gang as they consider him somewhat of a sissy. In order to prove that he is not yellow and as part of a battle preparation he has to get wet in an icy pond. He does so, his gang wins, and they are about to confer an honor on him the next day, but he has died from getting wet the previous day. Written by Les Adams <>

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Release Date:

14 July 1929 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Dečaci Pavlove ulice  »

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Version of The Boys of Via Paal (1935) See more »

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Hungarian 'West Side Story'; quite powerful.
2 December 2007 | by (Minffordd, North Wales) – See all my reviews

I saw 'The Paul Street Boys' in October 2007 at the Cinema Muto festival in Pordenone, Italy. An original nitrate print from the archives of the Jugoslovenska Kineteka in Belgrade was copied onto acetate colour stock by the Hungarian National Film Archive to recreate the original film's colour tintings. The print screened at Pordenone had intertitles in Croatian, a language which I barely comprehend. Headphones were available at the festival so that attendees could hear the titles translated into English, French or German, but I didn't use these; I wanted to see if I could follow the action unaided, and perhaps learn some Croatian into the bargain.

This film is based on a novel by Ferenc Molnar which was originally published as a Boy's Own magazine serial; apparently the novel remains extremely popular in Hungary. I can well understand its appeal to that culture, if one perceives this story as an analogy for Hungary's political history as a piece of territory fought over by more powerful nations.

The nominal heroes of this film are the Paul Street boys, a kids' gang who are carefully established as never being involved in any serious criminal activity. Their chief activity is an ongoing turf war against a somewhat better-organised gang who wear red shirts and resemble renegade Boy Scouts. (Good use of colour tinting to distinguish the Redshirt gang.) The turf under contention is the 'grund', a piece of undeveloped land between the tenements.

The Paul Street gang is run on semi-military terms, with every boy assigning himself an army rank. Every boy in the gang is an officer, except for little Nemecsek (Gyuri Farago), who is the only private. Nemecsek is constantly bullied and stigmatised by the other boys in his gang, who repeatedly penalise him for minor infractions and dunk his head into water as punishment. I found it painfully credible that Nemecsek would choose to be this gang's scapegoat, since at least he is accepted as a member of the gang ... which he clearly prefers over being a total outsider.

SPOILERS NOW. As the intrigue escalates between the gangs, it becomes clear that one of the Paul Street boys is actually a traitor. Nemecsek discovers that the spy is Gereb (Ferko Szecsi), a gang member more respected than himself. Nemecsek also manages to win the final battle for the "grund" ... but at the cost of his life. And then the other boys discover that the "grund" is going to be paved over and developed, so that neither gang can claim it. Oh, bitter irony!

I don't know much of Hungary's history before the twentieth century. From a 21st-century viewpoint, it would be easy to perceive 'The Paul Street Boys' as a political analogy: the "grund" is Hungary, with the two rival gangs representing Germany and the Soviet Union. However, Molnar's novel was originally published in 1907: either he had some 19th-century political intrigue in mind, or else there simply wasn't any political content intended.

This film makes excellent use of authentic locations, conveying the stark lives of these youths in an industrial estate which is only marginally better than a slum. (The Redshirt gang seem to live in a better neighbourhood than the Paul Street lads.) The child actors are convincingly gaunt and underfed; most of them give realistic performances. Watching this movie, I felt as if I was viewing a run-up to 'West Side Story' featuring younger boy gangs in a slightly less lethal conflict: only one boy dies here, but ultimately the violence here is shown to be just as futile. Despite my difficulties with the Croatian titles, I was entranced by this story ... and I'll rate this powerful movie 8 out of 10.

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