Saturday, 15 January 2011

The Young Savages

I begin with a film, The Young Savages released in 1961,based on a novel by Evan Hunter, features the good actor Burt Lancaster as a District Lawyer intent on bringing to the electric chair three youths, aged between 15 and 17 years, members of an Italian gang calling themselves the Thunderbirds, who kill a blind Puerto Rican youth, a member of a gang called the Horsemen The similarity between the subject of the musical West Side Story and this film struck from the start. It is a much better film in terms of the reality of the life of those in the neighbourhood. There are two interlinked stories within the story. The first is the lawyer Hank Bell is in fact Hank Bellini whose parent shortened the name from Bellini, an action taken by parents who wanted to break out quickly from the ghetto mentality of immigrants and establish themselves as USA Americans from the outset.

In this instance Hank has distanced himself his origins and has developed contempt for the lives of those who remained locked in the tribalism of what he wished was the past. Not so his wife, Vassar educated, middleclass background who is horrified that he is seeking the death penalty without investigating the backgrounds of the young men, accepting the claims of the Puerto Rican community as it has been presented in the media. She changes her attitude after being harassed in the lift of their apartment block by two members of the Thunderbirds. The couple have a teenage daughter who resents the restrictions about not being out after midnight but who is a normal daughter, well brought up, in education, and adjusted to the middle class environment of her parents. This contrasts with the lives of those in the racial ghettoes.

The second story within the story is that one of the three accused youths, the youngest aged 15 and therefore a minor, is the son of a former girl friend of Hank, who turned him down to marry the child’s father. The mother is played by Shelley Winters who had quickly realised the decision was a mistake after her husband commenced to beat her and who has brought up the boy as a single parent frequently telling him of her mistake as she witnessed the career of Hank through the local media. This results in a counter productive reaction by her son when Hank accepts her plea to prevent the boy from going to the electric chair and he attempts to get to know the young man who is being kept separate because of his age from the other two accused.
As a consequence of his investigation he is beaten up badly on his way home in the train and he is under pressure by his cynical police officer played by Telly Savalas as Telly Savalas and the ambitious District Attorney played by Edward Andrews with an eye on the Governorship and Presidency. Before and during the trial the true story of what happened and why emerges. The murdered boy, stabbed several times by different knives is not the innocent proclaimed by his mother, the Puerto Rican gang and community supported by the local media. Contemporary CCTV footage reveals that the boy is a member of the gang and is used by them to hide weapons on his person whenever the police are involved. The chief witness to what happened is his older sister aged 17 years who Lancaster uncovers has worked as a prostitute for two years and with the knowledge of her mother, as a means of supporting the family.

He also brings out that the leader of the trio Arthur Reardon is an explosive youth who can get quickly out of control and his sentence is a long term in prison. The second lad is known as Anthony Batman Aposto, illiterate and educational sub normal who also did stab the victim and is sent to a psychiatric based penal established to be detained until it is safe, if ever to discharge him. Hank begins to reconsider his view of Danny Di Pace. The son of his former girlfriend when mother introduces a young Puerto Rican who explains that in a previous incident he was being terrorised in the local pool (cooler) by the Thunderbirds when Danny had prevented them from drowning him. A witness to the incident, a young Italian girl admits that she got rid of the knives by dumping them in a parked car. She claims the blind boy had pulled a knife first which let to the others using knives in self defence. The “knife” is proved to have been a harmonica. The police are reluctant to devote staff to search for the knives but they are found as the trial is underway and a laboratory report is provided as the trial comes to an end. This enables Hank to establish in court that that Danny did not stab the victim but hit in with its handle. He was sticking to the story that he had stabbed out of self defence in order not to lose face. He was not a member of the gang under orders from his mother but being a typical teenager in the district wanted to be considered no different from the others. He is sent to an establishment for young people for a couple of years to the relief of his mother. Hank accepts that he had taken such a strong position at the outset because he was ashamed of his background. I would not say that the film is an outstanding picture but it was an important one and I am intrigued that I have no recollection of seeing it before or knowing of its existence.

Cricket Notes.
(England have just escaped the loss of a wicked as the player was caught but the umpire checked and found that it was a no ball with 23 runs scored 5.30am). (5.40 am Australia put down a difficult catching chance. England are 44 and shortly afterwards there is a catch behind off a ball given as a Wide. They consider an appeal but decided against, wisely as it was also a no ball. I decide it is time for breakfast and a weekend bacon roll with coffee 5.45 am and place the TV recording on hold 53 for no wicket)( the first wicket falls at 6.05am local time with Davies bowled for 41 with the total at 90. Trott is caught soon after arriving, caught behind for 6 with England 199 for 2 and new bowler Davis Hussey has taken both wickets for ten runs)( I have enjoyed a three slice bacon roll and consider coffee and doing the washing up break as soon as review of the Young Savages is completed 6.20am)( Strauss gets his 50 (52) which includes 6 fours 114 for 2 6.20am)( Andrew Strauss goes at 63 giving a simple catch with total 130). There is concern they are not making the most of the good start. I take a break for coffee and do the washing up after completing the film review. I then check and publish the film review.

No comments:

Post a Comment