Thursday, August 10, 2017

#2,405. The Violent Years (1956)

Directed By: William Morgan

Starring: Jean Moorhead, Barbara Weeks, Art Millan

Line from the film: "Teenage killers...fearing no law...taking their thrills without shame!"

Trivia: Dialogue from the film is sampled by the industrial band Ministry in the song "So What?"

A 1956 morality lesson about the dangers of juvenile delinquency, The Violent Years is a dreadful motion picture; absolutely terrible from start to finish.

Who was responsible for this cinematic dung heap, you ask?

Edward D. Wood, Jr… that’s who!

No, he didn’t direct The Violent Years (William Morgan handled those duties). But Wood wrote the script, and his penchant for obvious characters and over-the-top, preachy dialogue is as prevalent (and as hilarious) here as it is in Bride of the Monster or Plan 9 from Outer Space.

Teenager Paula Parkins (Jean Moorhead) comes from a good home. Her father Carl (Art Millan) is the editor-in-chief of the local newspaper and her mother Jane (Barbara Weeks) belongs to the women’s auxiliary, and does lots of charity work. What her parents don’t realize, though, is that Paula is the leader of a girl gang, one that’s responsible for a string of recent robberies. But stealing is only the tip of the iceberg; Paula and her cohorts: Georgia (Theresa Hancock); Geraldine (Joanne Cangi); and Phyllis (Gloria Farr), do it all, from vandalizing their high school to harassing couples parked on lover’s lane.

Even the gang’s “sponsor”, Shelia (Lee Constant), tells Paula that, if she wants to stay out of jail, she better lay low for a while. Ignoring this advice, Paula and the others continue their reign of terror, not realizing that the police are, indeed, closing in on them…

As with many low-budget films, the acting in The Violent Years is pretty weak, and even at just over an hour the movie drags in spots (though I admit I was surprised by the scene where Paula and her gang rape a guy at gunpoint).

Yet what will really have you howling is the film's often ridiculous dialogue. We know from his previous movies that Ed Wood never met a run-on sentence he didn’t like, and The Violent Years has more than its share of them (Paula tells her mother that she has something “important” to discuss with her, and asks for a moment of her time. But dear old mom is far too busy, blowing Paula off by asking “What can be so important in your young life as to warrant my attention so drastically?”). Yet nothing is as hilarious as the movie’s final moments, when a holier-than-thou judge (played by I. Stanford Jolley) pontificates about the cause of juvenile delinquency, and how it can be avoided (I rolled my eyes at least a half-dozen times during his extended speech).

The Violent Years isn’t just bad; it’s Ed Wood bad, and like many of the infamous filmmaker’s other movies (Glen or Glenda, Plan 9 from Outer Space, Bride of the Monster), that actually makes it... kinda good.

Funny how that works, isn’t it?

1 comment:

James Robert Smith said...

I used to have a couple of paperback originals written by Ed Wood. They were horrid beyond all description. You'd have to read them to believe that they exist. I didn't read them, of course. Only sampled the writing by flipping through them. Apparently there were paperback publishers back in the day who would pay a few hundred bucks per title to anyone who could string some words together in a partially logical manner. Wood would sell these horrid novels to them now and again.