• Violent Years, The

    Released by: AGFA/Something Weird Video
    Released on: November 21st, 2017.
    Director: William Morgan
    Cast: Jean Moorhead, Barbara Weeks, Art Milan, Theresa Hancock, Joanne Cangi, Gloria Farr, Glen Corbett
    Year: 1956
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Movie:

    Ed Wood's stab at cashing in on the juvenile delinquent movie craze was 1956's The Violent Years. Directed by William Morgan, this fifty-six minute film tells the story of a lovely young woman named Paula Parkins (Jean Moorhead). She is the daughter of a man (Arthur Millan) more concerned with running his newspaper business than being a good father to his growing girl. You'd think mom (Barbara Weeks) would pick up the slack but that isn't going to happen, as she's more into hanging out with her friends and spending as much time out of the family home as possible. As such, young Paula may have all the material possessions a girl could want, but she doesn't really have a whole lot going for her in terms of role models - and we all know what paths that will lead her down, right?

    She winds up hanging out with some bad girls – Phyllis (Gloria Farr), Geraldine (Joanne Cangi) and Georgia (Theresa Hancock) - and gets involved in a gas station hold up before partying it up, drinking booze, and then kidnapping a guy and taking him out into the woods... to rape him? Yep, they rape him. It turns out that Paula and her friends are working for a women who, behind the scenes, is employing wayward youths such as herself to do the work of the dreaded communists. When Paula and her crew trash a classroom at the local high school, Paula winds up icing a cop - at which point it all goes south for this gang of teenage hellcats!

    Spoilers follow…

    “So what!?!”

    Paula is hauled into court and her parents are lectured by a boring judge. At this point, locked up and tossed into the clink, Paula learns the hard way that raping guys in the woods has unintended consequences. That's right, little Paula's going to be a mommy soon - unless the world catches up with her and she kills herself, which is exactly what happens. Let this one be a lesson to you, kids - don't rape dudes in the woods and don't kill cops (as tempting as it might be sometimes), it'll only get you in trouble.

    It won't surprise anyone reading this to learn that The Violent Years is a bad film, but as bad as it is (and it's very bad – there are logic gaps aplenty, loads of bad acting, one dimensional characters and a long string of clichés), it's tough not to have a good time with it. Full of grand moralizing and anti-communist sentiment, it's very definitely a product of its political time, but we get this though Wood's bizarre world view rather than through any sort of sensible look at things as they were. Of course it makes sense that absentee parents will wind up driving their kids to gallivanting around town with pinko commies and wind up getting them involved in rape and murder! It only stands to reason, right?

    Typical cheapjack Woodsian production values make this one look like it was made for about a buck fifty while the performances Morgan manages to coax out of his cast are wooden as wooden can be, but only when they're not chewing through the scenery like it’s wet cardboard. There's very little style or flash here, the movie is poorly shot and all over the place in terms of pacing, but Wood fans ought to devour this one and get a big, stupid kick out of it, that's for sure.


    The Violent Years arrives on Blu-ray on a 50GB disc framed at 1.78.1 widescreen in a transfer taken from a ‘new 4K scan from the original 35mm camera negative!’ For the most part, the picture here is really nice. Print damage is a little heavy in the first few minutes of the movie but it settles down after that (though it never goes away entirely). That said, there’s good detail here, nice depth and texture to the picture. Contrast looks spot on, we get nice black levels and good grey scale throughout. There are no noticeable issues with any compression artifacts nor is there any edge enhancement or noise reduction to note. All in all, this is a strong, film-like presentation from AGFA.

    Audio chores are handled by an English language DTS-HD Mono track. Optional subtitles are provided in English only. There’s a bit of hiss here and there but it’s minor. Aside from that, no complaints. Levels are nicely balanced and dialogue stays clean, clear and easy to follow.

    Extras start off with a commentary track featuring filmmaker Frank Henenlotter and Ed Wood biographer Rudolph Grey. These guys have a good sense of humor which makes the track more than listenable even when they occasionally just narrate what’s happening on the screen. Henenlotter points out a lot of the logic gaps in the picture (notice the clouds outside the window of Paula’s cell towards the end, indicating that she may be floating in the sky!), while Grey talks about his various interactions with a few of the cast members when he interviewed them for his book. They also discuss the juvenile delinquent film craze, point out the different cast and crew members that pop up in the picture (some of whom appear in other Wood films), discuss why Wood didn’t direct this picture himself and more.

    AGFA has also included a bonus movie in the form of Anatomy Of A Psycho. Presented in 1.78.1 widescreen, again with DTS-HD Mono audio, and taken from a ‘new 2K scan from an original 35mm theatrical print’ it looks and sounds quite good.

    Directed by Boris Petroff, this second feature tells the tale of a troubled young man named Chet Marco (Darrell Howe) who just hasn’t been the same since his older brother Duke was to be executed. After he picks up Duke’s final belongings from the prison, he gets into a scrap with a gang after one member pushes him for info on what it was like inside. Chet lands himself a doozy of a scar and heads home to complain to his pretty sister, Pat (Pamela Lincoln). Sadly for Chet, Pat doesn’t offer much sympathy and tells him that Duke more or less got what he deserved.

    Pat’s also dating this guy named Mickey (Ronnie Burns) who just so happens to be the only son of the key witness responsible for sending Duke to his death. While Pat and Mickey are hanging out and getting engaged, Chet starts chilling at a shack owned by a former Marine named Moe (Don Devlin). The shack is also a hangout for a rather simple guy named Bobbie (Frank Killmond) who inexplicably considers Chet his best friend in the whole wide world. When Chet hears of Duke’s execution on the radio, he freaks out and threatens to ‘kill them all’ and from there he and his pals start causing all sorts of trouble, much to the dismay of a cop named Mac (Michael Granger). Chet and his pals kick the snot out of the District Attorney’s kid, Chet harasses his one-time girlfriend Sondra (Judy Howard) after she dumps him, and Pat makes a nice impression on Mickey’s dad. Eventually though, Chet sets a fire and basically snaps before he and Mickey get into it. But let’s not ruin how all of this ends for those not lucky enough to see this one yet.

    Made fast and cheap, this movie is more than a little rough around the edges but it remains completely watchable and frequently quite interesting. The sets are cheap and sometimes trashy looking and some obvious optical work stands out like a sore thumb but all of this adds to the movie’s low budget charm. The boom mic appears throughout the movie and the scene early in the film where Chet brawls with the gang showcases some painfully obvious staging backdrops but when you’ve got Darrell Howe running around with his eyes bugging out of his head and yelling at everybody, who cares! Howe steals the show, particularly in the last half of the film where he’s running around looking like greaser version of Frank Gorshin by way of Desi Arnaz. He puts his cigarettes out on classy Victorian era artwork, he throws over tables when he gets mad, he talks simpletons into committing perjury and he doesn’t take any crap from any no good cop who might want to get in his way! Let there be no doubt about it, Chet rules.

    The rest of the cast are only so-so in their parts, though Pamela Lincoln is occasionally fun with some of her ridiculously melodramatic line deliveries. A weird scene where Pat and Mickey meet Chet at a fancy dance party sees couples swirling around poolside with a mountain range in the back – it’s just bizarre. The courtroom scenes are a bit drawn out but probably necessary to keep the plot coherent enough, so we can let those pass. The big finish though, it’s great. When it’s all said and done, there’s a lot to like about this low budget cheapie and it’s a shame that Howe didn’t take more roles like this (it seems like this was his only feature, though he did do some TV work from the late fifties through to the mid-sixties).

    Also included is ten minutes of footage shot over the period of one day for a film Wood tried to get going called Hellborn. Sourced from a worn out tape, it’s still interesting to see here as it not only showcases more of Wood’s work in the JD genre but features the man himself strutting about in drag. Some of the footage from this odd excursion would wind up in Night Of The Ghouls and The Sinister Urge but it’s cool to see the entirety of it included here.

    Aside from that, we get a trailer for the feature, a selection of “Gutter-noir trailers from the Something Weird vault” (which is made up of No Morals, Diary Of A Bad Girl, The Vice Dolls, The Naked And The Wicked, The Shameless Sex and last but not least The Sinister Urge), menus and chapter selection. Tucked away inside the keepcase with the disc is a full color insert booklet that contains a memorabilia scrapbook selection showcasing some interesting bits of ephemera related to The Violent Years.

    The Final Word:

    AGFA’s release of The Violent Years is a good one, presenting the picture in nice shape and with a solid selection of extra features including a high definition version of the equally entertaining Anatomy Of A Psycho.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 2 Comments
    1. C.D. Workman's Avatar
      C.D. Workman -
      Great review, Ian. And those screen caps look pretty sharp. I had no idea this one was going to include ANATOMY OF A PSYCHO, so now I have to get it...
    1. Mark C.'s Avatar
      Mark C. -
      Anatomy is a pretty cool film as well, I have this ordered and hope AGFA continues to release more films like this from 4k scans.