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The Young Savages (1961)

„The Young Savages“ is a 1961 crime drama film directed by John Frankenheimer. The screenplay by Edward Anhalt and J.P. Miller is based on the 1959 novel „ A Matter of Conviction“ by Evan Hunter.

Two Italian-American greasers, Danny diPace and Anthony „Batman“ Aposto, and the Irish-American Arthur Reardon are members of a street gang named the Thunderbirds in New York City in East Harlem. They have an ongoing turf war with a Puerto Rican gang called the Horsemen. The three Thunderbirds unleash a knife attack on Roberto Escalante, a blind member of the Horsemen and stab him to death. They are caught and arrested, and during questioning by the police, assistant district attorney Hank Bell discovers one of the boys is the son of Mary diPace, an ex-girlfriend.

Back at the office of the district attorney R. Daniel Cole, Bell admits he knows the mother of one of the suspects in the killing. Despite objections, he is not taken off the case and admits that he grew up in the same neighborhood. In a conversation with his wife Karin Bell, Bell admits that his father changed his name from Bellini (Belani in the book) to Bell because he wanted to conceal his background and where he grew up, a deception Bell had found advantageous in pursuing his career and in the opportunity to marry Karin, a Vassar girl.

At the funeral for Escalante, Bell is confronted by his ex-lover who tells him that her son promised he would never join a gang. Bell then sets out to find the facts about the killing, meeting one by one with all the families and gang members involved. He learns not only the intricacies of the case, but is shocked at his own capacity to kill when he is attacked by a gang, most likely members of the Thunderbirds, given how some members watched over Escalate’s funeral, likely spying on it, making him realize his hard-won character in the school of hard knocks is not immune to these forces. From a different angle, illustrating the limitations of a privileged education and upbringing, his wife finds her idealistic empathy for those caught in a web of circumstance is challenged when she is attacked by gang members in an elevator.

The drama evolves to consider many aspects of the crime: gangs, poverty, ethnic bias, parental incapacity to deal with forces far beyond their control, and politics. The three boys tried for the murder illustrate how personal qualities of morality, mental capacity, conformity, and psychosis fit into a squalid ethnically diverse setting compartmentalized by demeaning stereotypical beliefs. The milieu in which all life is on trial, including not only the perpetrators’ surroundings, but the failure of larger society to take much interest in the underlying issues.

When the trial concludes with different sentences for each boy, tailored to their individual natures, Escalante’s mother asks Bell if justice had been served. He answers unhappily that a great many people bear responsibility for her son’s death.

A 1961 American Black & White crime drama film directed by John Frankenheimer, produced by Pat Duggan and Harold Hecht, screenplay by Edward Anhalt and J.P. Miller, based on Evan Hunter’s novel „A Matter of Conviction“ (1959), cinematography by Lionel Lindon, starring Burt Lancaster, Dina Merrill, Shelley Winters, and Edward Andrews.

The first film featuring Telly Savalas, who plays a police detective. Savalas also plays a police lieutenant in „Mad Dog Coll“ (1961). Twelve years later he played another police lieutenant, Theo Kojak, in Kojak (1973).

Sydney Pollack served as dialogue coach (uncredited).

Burt Lancaster was forced by United Artists to make four films for $150,000 a picture in the 1960s: „The Young Savages“ (1961), „Birdman of Alcatraz“ (1962), „The Train“ (1964) and „The Hallelujah Trail“ (1965) rather than his normal fee of $750,000, because of cost overruns at his production company, Hecht-Hill-Lancaster, for which he was personally responsible.

Lancaster and Shelley Winters, who played former lovers in the film, were actually former lovers in real life. Winters was a late replacement for Lee Grant, who had already filmed a key scene when she quit.

When Lancaster walked onto the set the first day of shooting, he was startled and dismayed to see the camera on the floor, aiming upward. Lancaster had never before worked with a director who used such innovative camera angles. He grew to trust John Frankenheimer, and they made four more films together.

Dina Merrill said that the treatment she received from director John Frankenheimer on this picture nearly drove her out of the business. He told her at the end of a day’s filming that she was the worst actress he’d ever worked with. She said she went home in tears. It got so bad that her co-star Burt Lancaster came to her defense one morning by ridiculing the director’s „good mood“ as evidenced by the fact that he hadn’t insulted Dina yet.

Often categorized as a „thinking man’s movie“, it has received mixed reviews.

Aspects of the film are inspired by the real-life Salvador Agron …


  • Burt Lancaster – Hank Bell
  • Dina Merrill – Karin Bell
  • Edward Andrews – R. Daniel Cole
  • Vivian Nathan – Mrs. Escalante
  • Shelley Winters – Mary diPace
  • Larry Gates – Randolph
  • Telly Savalas – Detective Lt. Gunderson
  • Pilar Seurat – Louisa Escalante
  • Jody Fair – Angela Rugiello
  • Roberta Shore – Jenny Bell
  • Milton Selzer – Dr. Walsh
  • Robert Burton – Judge
  • David J. Stewart – Barton
  • Stanley Kristien – Danny diPace
  • John Davis Chandler – Arthur Reardon
  • Neil Burstyn – Anthony „Batman“ Aposto
  • Luis Arroyo – Zorro
  • José Pérez – Roberto Escalante
  • Richard Velez – Gargantua

„Die jungen Wilden“ ist ein Kriminaldrama aus dem Jahr 1961 unter der Regie von John Frankenheimer. Das Drehbuch von Edward Anhalt und J.P. Miller basiert auf dem 1959 erschienenen Roman "A Matter of Conviction" von Evan Hunter.

Zwei italienisch-amerikanische Schmierer, Danny diPace und Anthony "Batman" Aposto, und der irisch-amerikanische Arthur Reardon sind Mitglieder einer Straßengang namens Thunderbirds in New York City in East Harlem. Sie befinden sich in einem ständigen Revierkampf mit einer puertoricanischen Gang namens Horsemen. Die drei Thunderbirds greifen Roberto Escalante, ein blindes Mitglied der Horsemen, mit einem Messer an und stechen ihn tot. Sie werden gefasst und verhaftet. Bei der Befragung durch die Polizei findet der stellvertretende Staatsanwalt Hank Bell heraus, dass einer der Jungen der Sohn von Mary diPace, einer Ex-Freundin, ist.