'Television's Lost Classics, Volume One'
(Robert Preston, Glenda Farrell, John Cassavetes, Terry Moore, Robert H Harris, et al / Blu-ray / NR / (1956) 2018 / VCI Entertainment)
Overview: This is a special series of lost classic programs from the Golden Age of TV. The series has been restored by SabuCat Productions from the best archival film elements available in high definition, some of the programs have not been seen since they were originally broadcast. Volume One features 2 one-hour dramatic programs that feature John Cassavetes.
Blu-ray Verdict: 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?
This is the synopsis of the first of the two features starring John Cassavetes, 'Crime In The Streets' (1956). Working on a painfully thin budget from Allied Artists, Don Siegel managed to fashion an urban tale of violence and juvenile delinquency here in this lost classic from the Golden Age of TV.
The urban sets here on what was part of The Elgin Hour (which ran for two years and was a drama series that ran every other week, attracted top notch actors and actresses, with this episode being first broadcast live from New York City on ABC, Tuesday March 8th, 1955), remind me a lot of Otto Preminger's 'The Man With A Golden Arm' which came out a year before and the delinquents aren't romanticized as they are in West Side Story.
James Whitmore stars as a local social worker working out of a settlement house who keeps his ear to the ground for any rumblings of a rumble on the mean streets of his urban neighborhood. With two gangs, the Hornets and the Dukes, he's got his hands full.
In truth, it's the Hornets here that concern the viewer as they have a charismatic leader in the young John Cassavetes - who at 27 is noticeably way too old to be playing an 18 year old; but so did most of the kids (look way too old) in Glenn Ford's class in 'The Blackboard Jungle'.
Anyway, back on track and Cassavetes is repeating his role from this same story made as television drama two years earlier. Also repeating are Mark Rydell as one of Cassavetes lieutenants, who really isn't wrapped too tight and Will Kulava as Sal Mineo's father.
When local citizen Malcolm Atterbury reports one of their peers for having a zip gun, Cassavetes sets in motion a plan to kill him. Mineo and Rydell are in on it and when Whitmore gets wind of it, well, he does what he can to stop it.
Don Siegel gets good performances out of his ensemble cast. One player I failed to mention is Virginia Gregg who may have gotten her career role as the mother of Cassavetes and Peter Votrian. Cassavetes she feels is a lost cause whose concerned about Votrian, who idolizes his brother and might get into the gang culture.
Gregg is great example of one who was probably a battered wife when she had a husband living in the place and one who is too shell shocked to deal with her rebellious son.
Though it's dated, 'Crime In The Streets' is still entertaining and it's a good sociological treatise on juvenile delinquency.
The other Cassavetes feature here is 'No Right To Kill' (1956). I say feature as 'No Right To Kill' is actually part of the Climax! Series and was presented by the Chrysler Corporation back in 1956.
Climax! ran for four years and was an anthology series that presented a different story and different set of characters on each episode. It ran from 1954 to 1958 and featured Casino Royale of James Bond fame that lead to a feature film of the same titles.
Based on Dostoyevsky's 'Crime and Punishment,' and adapted for TV by Victor Wolfson, it was broadcast on CBS, Thursday, August 9th, 1956. Luckily for us fans of lost classics, this one comes with the original commercial messages that were included in the episode, along with a bonus blooper reel from the "Defenders" and "The Nurses" series.
As for the feature itself, 'No Right To Kill,' directed by Buzz Kulik and starring John Cassavetes, Robert H. Harris, Joe Mantell and Terry Moore, it's the story of a family man, Gene Courtier, who makes the mistake of picking up a hitch-hiker, Victor Gosset, a wanted criminal.
Gosset and his accomplices, Robert Batsford and Luther Logan, take Courtier and his family captive in their home at gunpoint. They demand that Courtier sell the car in the morning and hand over the money.
With police closing in, the gang refuses to leave. Courtier's father is a wealthy man, so the robbers now want a large sum in ransom. Courtier gets the best of them eventually, however ... ** 60 YEAR SPOILER ALERT! ** ... with all three of his kidnappers ending up dead!