One Crime In Particular: The ’56 Movie, “Crime in the Streets” (The Films of Don Siegel #2)

He looks too old for the part, but John Cassavetes is vividly first-rate as an 18-year-old gang leader in Don Siegel’s Crime in the Streets (1956).

Here, a trio of punks plan to murder a working-class gent who caused a fellow street tough to be arrested.  Frankie (Cassavetes), the only punk who is never reluctant about the plan, is utterly hardhearted and seemingly unreachable.  Siegel’s direction is characteristically good, though screenwriter Reginald Rose creates a liberal-psychotherapeutic vision which is never distracting but a little less than realistic.  Dirty Harry, another Siegel picture, this ain’t.  Harry, however, is asinine.  Crime in the Streets is a decent work, grounded and working on the emotions. . . Siegel’s late 40s and 50s films are often naturalistically finer and more appealing than his later, post-censorship items.

“Cries and Whispers” And Embarrassment (Bergman’s 1972 Effort)

I generally dislike the films of Ingmar Bergman, and Cries and Whispers (1972) is no exception.  It’s a lousy period piece set in the early 20th century and, even though it does a fine job of concentrating on human suffering as a reality of both the past and the present, it offers one specious or absurd moment after another.  Harriet Andersson is magnificent as an ailing and agonized woman; Liv Ullmann and Ingrid Thulin are strong actresses too, but what Bergman does with them is merely embarrassing.

A Bergman film and so not a happy one, Cries and Whispers intimates that there is such a thing as human comfort–comfort from human beings (sinful creatures though we are)— but little or no divine comfort.  Indeed, a clergyman (!) speaks of people living “under a grim and empty sky” in what is a particularly ridiculous eulogy.

Spare me this film as I would have liked Andersson’s Agnes to be spared her pain.

Cover of "Cries & Whispers - Criterion Co...

Cover of Cries & Whispers – Criterion Collection


Furious Fun: “Furious 7″

1. Okay, so we see the ultimate that a movie can do with cars—in Furious 7 (2015), the seventh The Fast and the Furious pic—when five sleek autos drive out of a plane and drop by parachute to the mountain road below.  Subsequently, of course, the drivers zoom them away.  Talk about durability.

Don’t think the parachute drop is the stupidest thing in the movie.  It’s just the most visually fun, in a concoction with a lot of amusement-park visuals.

2. Furious 7 brought me back to my natural appreciation for dark-skinned young women in the form of Ramsey, the computer hacker played by black-and-British Nathalie Emmanuel.  Nice to see you nudged out of the way, Michelle Rodriguez (Letty).  Emmanuel is before us, good looks, sensitive face and all.  And, yes, after all the life-threatening peril, her character is pleased to slip into a bikini for a while.  What’s more, she’s too good for that boring imbecile enacted by Tyrese Gibson.

3. Cold reality, man:  Paul Walker (Brian) died in a horrifying car wreck.  The movie is dedicated to him.  Paul, you will be missed.


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