Saturday, 29 August 2009


It is hard to believe that John Frankenheimer's film received an "X" certificate from the British censor. Despite its subject (New York street gangs) it looks pretty tame but back then they really thought that films like this were going to corrupt the young. Burt Lancaster is appointed as a prosecutor in what seems the open and shut murder of a blind boy by three members of a street gang. The film is well acted by a cast that includes Dina Merrill, Shelly Winters, Telly Savalas, Chris Robinson and John Davis Chandler and works very well when it is a detective story with Lancaster realising there is more to the case than meets they eye. When we get the actual trial it seems to fall apart dramatically. Of course, we know that Lancaster is going to have to destroy his own case but the emphasis of the script seems odd. Why is the testimony about a harmonica ignored and why does he reveal the victim's sinister as a hooker but fail to mention the victim's secret association with the gang? Then again, it is a trial by jury but we never the closing arguments, the judges summing up or the delivery of the verdict - all we get is the judge passing sentence. In terms of good dramatic construction it fails to satisfy. It starts as a thriller and then throws everything away to be socially conscience which is a great shame because there is enough here that it could have been both. Worth seeing but not really successful. Rating **

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