Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Crime In The Streets 1956

There is another very good package of mostly film noirs recently put out by Warner Bros. under the collective title “Film Noir Classics Collection Vol 5” with a whopping 8 films on 4 discs, My least favorite in the set is CRIME IN THE STREETS from 1956 which is hardly a film noir at all and is instead a “problem movie” in more ways than one. Don Siegel (billed as Donald Siegel) made some good scrappy little B’s including the seminal paranoia sci-fi cold war masterpiece “Invasion Of The Body Snatchers made the same year as this stage bound crappy looking juvenile delinquent movie that was originally done for television and looks it. I guess you can say the film is notable for introducing John Cassavetes as the troubled leader (he can’t stand to be touched) of a band of teens who are about as threatening as the dancing young hoods in West Side Story. First off Cassavetes was way too old at 27 to play an 18 year old, and it shows in his face and body. The teens also included Sal Mineo and Ray Stricklyn, two young gay men playing straight, and a young straight Mark Rydell playing a somewhat unstable menacing fey and slightly mincing (read gay) teen who looked like he was wearing a lot of eye makeup and was for me was the most interesting character in the film. Rydell who pretty much left acting (occasionally he would play a role in a movie, the most notable being his scary psychotic gangster Marty Augustine in Robert Altman’s 1973 “The Long Goodbye) for a somewhat successful directing career. At one point he asks Cassavetes if he’s going to kiss him goodnight, and I vividly recall the 1956 audience I originally saw this with when I was 9 picking up on this gay baiting role and reacting with hostile remarks. Quite adventuresome no doubt for the period, but the film is cliched dull and cheap looking with a poorly designed one note street set of a depressed low income New York neighborhood that bothered me. There are plenty of cheap B’s around that made wonderful use of their backlot New York streets, but this one falls flat on its flats. I also didn’t like James Whitmore as the bleeding heart social worker-community center director who decides that Cassavetes is really a good but damaged young man. Never mind that he hatches a plot along with Rydell and Mineo to murder a meddlesome neighbor he doesn’t like. Also disagreeable to me was Virginia Gregg as the downtrodden hard working waitress mom of Cassavetes and an annoying little brother and she gives an over the top performance that was headache inducing.. The ending of the film is soft sentimental and rushed and just doesn’t jell with what preceded it. The mid fifties was full of movies about troubled teens, most notably Rebel Without A Cause and The Blackboard Jungle, not to mention many little B’s that focused on the juvenile delinquent problem to various degrees of success and entertainment value. This one because of the cheap look and labored plot didn’t grab me, except for the intriguing Rydell performance. You can skip this one.


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