Rudy Schwartz's Reviews

Ah, rebellious youth. What red-blooded, penis-carrying American adult didn't engage in a little hell raising during his adolescence? Culturally, it's expected of us, in the same way that a salesman at Best Buy is expected to ask if you'd like an extended warranty on a $25 rabbit ear TV antenna. So why is it that so few of us take advantage of these extended warranties? I'm not really sure, but I do know that it's probably not the same reason why so many of us are pissed off when a carload of post-pubescent brats unfurls twenty rolls of Charmin in our cottonwood trees. Or perhaps you have Japanese maples at your house. After all, they're much sturdier and the fall foliage is beautiful. But try explaining that to these goddamn kids who are leaving burning sacks of dogshit on your front porch or calling at three o'clock in the morning to ask if you have Prince Albert in a can. And how many stations can you pick up with a $25 TV antenna anyway?

My rebellious teenage period bore many similarities to that of Frankie Dane, the central figure in Crime in the Streets, played by John Cassavetes. For example, I also wore V-necked sweaters and avoided social workers, attributes which I carry with me to this day. But perhaps the similarities begin to fade at that point, because while Frankie spends his leisure hours planning homicides, beating other juvenile delinquents with chains and two-by-fours, and applying untoward peer pressure on Sal Mineo to participate in all of the above, my most rebellious acts involved the aforementioned toilet paper dispersed among the upper branches of neighbors' trees, and leaning against a wall in front of the bowling alley, smoking filter tipped Swisher Sweets, while listening to Foghat blaring from the 8-track player of a nearby Plymouth. If I had been given access to Sal Mineo, I'm skeptical that I would have had any influence over him. And by the time I was 27, as Cassavetes happened to be when this film was made, I wasn't threatening my relatives with a switchblade, but rather filing my first Schedule A to take advantage of the mortgage interest deduction. Still, I feel a kindred bond with Frankie, and I suspect that had he known there is a 7.5% income threshold which must be met before any medical deductions can be claimed on Schedule A, he also might have elected to simply listen to Foghat when he wanted to annoy his parents.

Anyway, it's probably worth mentioning that this is a pretty good movie with an excellent cast, including Cassavetes, Mineo, Virginia Gregg, James Whitmore, Will Kulava, Malcolm Atterbury, and Mark Rydell, who as "Lou" gives Frankie a run for his money in the sociopathic asshole sweepstakes. And goddamn, as if that weren't enough, fans of Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla will also find the uncredited Duke Mitchell, as "Herky," a guy who enjoys a gang beating as much as anyone, but who draws the line when Cassavetes decides to orchestrate a murder to settle a grudge. James Whitmore plays the concerned 24/7 social worker who tries with limited success to encourage them to enjoy more fountain drinks. As a central character, he's surprisingly impotent, but it's not for lack of trying, since he's just as likely to pop up at 2 A.M. in a dark alley as he is during normal working hours.

For 1956, it doesn't pull many punches, and it's a well paced, worthwhile diversion from Don Siegel, better known for Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Dirty Harry. There are obvious comparisons to West Side Story, but the characters are nastier, the script is better, nobody bursts into song, and the run time doesn't challenge my increasingly limited bladder capacity. It's in a Film Noir box set, but sometimes it pops up on TCM, so even the mildly curious should be able to find it.

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