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The Violent Years

a/k/a Teenage Girl Gang

Part Four of JD's & Rocketbras

     "This is a story of violence. Born of the passion of adolescent youth, nurtured by this generation of parents who refuse to believe today's glaring headlines. But it has happened. Only the names have been changed."

-- Our overly morose Narrator    




Gonzoid Cinema






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Sights &
Violent Years

Newspaper Ads

Looking Back
in Angora:
The Fractured
Films of Edward
D. Wood Jr.

Jail Bait

The Violent Years

The Bride and the Beast

Plan 9 from Outer Space

Night of the Ghouls

The Sinister Urge

Anatomy of Psycho

Orgy of the Dead


After a caustic pre-credit sequence, where an overly sullen narrator pummels the audience into submission, condemning the cancerous decay of discipline in the American family, our morality play begins in a courtroom as a judge puts the wood to two parents, Carl and Jane Parkins (Arthur Millan and Barbara Weeks). As his Honor rants, we decipher that these two's hell-spawn offspring has done something really really bad, and frankly, the judge thinks it's all their fault. Still in denial, the mother starts to reminisce and openly wonders "Where did I go wrong?" 

Uh-oh, flashback:

...We jump back in time and meet their daughter, Paula (Jean Moorhead). And as a bleak family picture comes into focus, we find out that mom does a lot of charity work and is seldom home, and that dad’s a newspaperman and is home even less. Needing to talk to her mom, who is halfway out the door to some banquet, Paula compliments her appearance and comes of as a nice girl; so nice that mom gives her a blank check for any cash she might need for the evening. (Cue ominous music.) After she leaves, all alone, Paula's demeanor visibly changes to something more sinister as she calls up her gal pals and arranges to meet them later for a little action...

Well, since we’ve been at this website thing for almost a year now, it’s probably about time that we stare right into the eye of the weird and wild world of Edward D. Wood Jr. and try not to blink first.

Now, the one general misconception that a lot of people have about The Violent Years is that Ed Wood wrote and directed it. But that’s only half-right. Eddie only wrote the screenplay, and strangely enough, he doesn’t get a credit for it. How do we know for sure he didn’t direct it, then? That’s easy. The film you're about to experience has a cohesive narrative, and for the most part, moves at a brisk pace. There are plenty of shots of police cars with sirens blaring going back and forth, and back and forth, and there they go again, so assuming Wood was behind the camera is an easy mistake to make -- but no matter who’s directing, nothing can hide Wood’s knack for circular dialogue ... Wood's stamp as the worst director of all time is a fallacy, but worst screenwriter of all time is open for debate. Does anyone else notice how his films can come to a screeching halt in long, and excessively dull plot-exposition scenes? (Especially Plan 9. If I hear that damn solaranite speech just one more time…) Luckily, director William Morgan reined him in and does a fairly nice job of moving things along -- hell, the thing barely breaks an hour. And as it blisters along from one teen atrocity to the other, all you can do is boggle and wait to see what happens next as we pick up the action where we left off, and we spy a black sedan pulling up to a lonely gas station. 

When the attendant presents himself, the driver immediately sticks a gun in his face. Then the other three passengers get out, and while one watches the road, the other two head inside for the loot. They're all wearing masks, but it’s pretty easy to determine their gender as all female, and we also recognize that one of them is definitely Paula. Snatching the cash, they bash the gas jockey’s head in and burn rubber. Later, at the hospital, Lt. Homes (Wood regular, Tim Farrel) waits to question the injured party until the doctor reports the victim is in a coma and might not make it. Enter Barney Stetson (-- another Wood regular, Glen Corbett), ace reporter, who asks Holmes if it’s the same gang that’s been terrorizing the town recently. Homes confirms the hunch, which brings it to seventeen total incidents thus far -- the last seven being gas station robberies -- that can be attributed to the same gang of hooligans. Under pressure from above, Homes says they intend to set a trap by placing undercover cops at all the gas stations that are open late.

Once back at the paper, Barney checks in with the boss, none other than Carl Parkins, who moans about how he’d like to take the day off and spend some quality time with his daughter. But as long as these hoodlums are running amok making headlines, he just doesn’t have the time. (Oh, the irony of it all.) And before he quits whining, he tacks on that the gang is lucky because they haven’t killed anyone … yet. (He typed ominously.)

Meanwhile, Paula and her girl-gang -- Phyllis, Geraldine and Georgia (Gloria Farr, Joanne Cangi and Theresa Hancock) -- head up to lover’s lane to cause some more trouble. Finding a young couple necking in a convertible, the girls quietly surround the car and jump them up, demanding their money. When the victims claim they don’t have much cash, the girls want to know what else the boy can give them. (Omigod. Are they gonna do what I think they’re gonna do?) Trussing up the girlfriend, they leave her in the car and herd the hapless boy into the trees. (Omigod they wouldn’t?) They force him to strip. (Omigod they are.) They make sure no one else is around, then strip down themselves, and close in. (Omigod they did!) Back in the car, the girl manages to free herself and runs for help, while over in the bushes, the four women ravage her boyfriend! (Trust me. More on this scene later.)

A few days later, at the Parkins home, mom chastises dad for forgetting Paula's birthday. Neither one can be there for her pajama party, but promise each other to get a nice gift. That afternoon, Paula visits her dad at the paper and pumps him for information to see if the police are close to discovering who’s really behind the crimewave. Revealing that the police are looking for four male juveniles, Dad also leaks that the authorities intend to stake out all the gas stations ... Later at school, with the heat on, Paula gathers her cronies and cancels that evenings heist. Piling into her car, the group heads to Sheila's (Lee Constant), their fence, to sell off the stolen loot. After they haggle for a while, and finally settle on a payoff, when Sheila gets the money, Paula reveals that the money means nothing to her -- she’s into crime just for the thrill of it. Liking what she hears, and wanting to talk to Paula alone, Sheila asks the others to leave. Certain that Paula is ready to move beyond these penny-ante crimes and up to the big time, Sheila offers that she has contacts with a certain organization that will pay handsomely for someone willing to ransack the school. And they'd really like it if a few flags were destroyed in the process. (Oh, THAT certain organization.) Needless to say, Paula is intrigued.

That evening, since mom and dad are away, again, Paula’s pajama party goes coed -- and everybody’s passionately necking, groping, and swapping pajamas to an eerily familiar spaz-jazz record, when Barney shows up to deliver her dad’s birthday present. Inviting himself in, the square reporter sticks out like a sore thumb amongst these hepcats. Cornering Paula for a brief heart to heart, Barney learns that her parents give her the same thing every year: a new watch and a new car, whether she needs one or not. (Man, life IS tough.) One of the guys takes a disliking to Barney crowding Paula, and when he mouths off, the reporter punches him out. Unimpressed, Paula kicks him out; but as he goes, Barney warns Paula that she’s hanging out with a bad crowd. After he’s gone, she kicks the other boys out, too. There's something else the girls have to do tonight.

Heading to the high school, the girls break in and start trashing the place. But their ruckus soon draws the attention of a passing patrolman, who calls for back up. And just as the American flag almost bites it, the girls hear the approaching sirens. (*whew* that was close. Democracy is saved!) Pulling their guns, the girls start firing away -- but are a little shocked when the cops shoot back! Soon low on ammo, the gang decides to make a break for the car. Covering the others, Paula returns fire and kills one of the patrolmen. Answering in kind, Phyllis is shot dead before they can even get outside, and Geraldine is gunned down in the playground; but the other two make it to the car and escape. Somehow, Paula manages to lose the police and heads to Sheila’s, hoping she will hide them until the heat’s off. But once Sheila hears what happened, she refuses to help and tries to kick them out. And after Paula admits that she killed a cop, Sheila threatens to call the police -- so Paula plugs her, too ... After stealing a change of clothes and all of Sheila's dirty money, Paula and Georgia go on the lam. (And I have to pause and point out that it appears Georgia has a slight hitch in her giddy-up as they flee the premises.) Unfortunately for them, a nosey neighbor spies them as they leave and calls the cops.

Needing new transportation, when the fugitives try to buy a car with Sheila’s money, Paula starts to have stomach cramps. (He typed ominously...) One step behind them, the cops find Sheila’s body and the neighbor points out the direction the fugitives were heading. An APB is sent out, and it isn’t long before a squad car finds the girls in their new wheels. With the dragnet closing in on all sides, Paula punches the gas but soon loses control and crashes through a storefront’s plate glass window...

Paula eventually wakes up in a prison hospital alone -- apparently, Georgia didn’t survive the wreck. When her parents try to see her, Homes intercepts and gives them the Big Kids with Big Guns speech and the Evils they Wrought. (Think the movies almost over? Think again.) At trial, Paula is found guilty of first degree murder, branded a thrill-killer, and sentenced to life in prison ... Time passes, and mom and dad are understandably morose of these events but believe they know where they went wrong with Paula and wish they could have a second chance. And then they sorta get one -- because Paula doesn’t want her baby to grow up in prison and wants to turn custody over to them.

Baby ... Baby? What baby? She had stomach cramps, and now she’s pregnant? When did this happen? Wow. That sure came out of left field. I wonder who the dad is? Omigod -- you don’t think it could be the boy from the -- ?!? OMIGOD!

Our film then takes another morbid turn when Paula dies giving birth to her daughter.

Thus endeth the flashback...

...Well, we’ve lapped ourselves as the flashback ends right where we started: back in court, where the Parkins are trying to get custody of their granddaughter. But the judge denies their request and goes into another looong rant about their poor parenting techniques. That's right; the Parkins are one and done, and Paula's child will remain a ward of the state until a good family can be found to adopt her.


The End

Well, if Village of the Giants barely qualified for this J.D.’s and Rocketbras retrospective, then The Violent Years might be a little over-qualified. This one has got everything: Good girls gone bad; oblivious parents; co-ed pajama parties; thrill seekers; thrill-killers; communists; girls in prison; and illegitimate babies; not to mention the prerequisite juvenile delinquents and their more than ample push-up bras. Wow.

The brainchild of producer Roy Reid, The Violent Years holds the distinction of having the biggest box-office return of any movie Ed Wood was associated with. Reid started his showbiz career as a road-show promoter of exploitation films, stumping for the likes of J.D. Kendis (Youth Aflame, Slaves in Bondage) and Willis Kent (The Wages of Sin, Mad Youth), and also campaigned for Continental Pictures (Devil's Harvest, Escort Girl) and the nudies of Cine-Grand Films Inc. (The Unashamed.) Deciding to make his own lurid quickie for a bigger piece of the pie, Reid briefly formed Headliner Productions and this was his inaugural film based on Wood's spec-script, initially titled Girl Gang. Reid would collaborate again with Wood a few years later with The Sinister Urge, letting him write and direct for that occasion, but all future ventures were scuttled by Wood's rampant alcoholism  -- and those two films would comprise the entirety of Headliner's back catalogue.

Most of these kinds of films like to point the blame for juvenile delinquency back on the parents, but The Violent Years is downright scathing. In fact, I think they’re a little too hard on Carl and Jane Parkins, who seem to be nice enough people. Is it their fault they gave birth to The Bad Seed? As they are tongue-lashed by the judge, Wood's script tries to come off as heavy handed and moralistic, but only manages hilarity because they did try to cram everything into it. And, for the most part, they succeeded -- even though Paula’s pregnancy comes off as an afterthought and seems thrown in just for the hell of it. She has cramps, she’s dizzy, she’s pregnant. (Wow. That was quick.) And I don't even want to fathom the fact that the man they "raped" is probably the baby's father. Are you effin' kidding me?!?

The film is probably most remembered for that notorious "man criminally attacked by women" scene. Despite the subject matter, it will make you laugh your butt off. Watch as Paula gives the victim the once over, then looks to the left, then she looks to the right, touches the back of her hair ever so gently, and then starts to strip, licking her lips as she slowly closes in on him. When it's over, all we’re missing is a scene of a train going into a tunnel -- or a tunnel swallowing a train in this case. The "conventional circumstances" dialogue preceding the attack is also priceless, and it took me several viewings to realize that it was the guy who was screaming and not his girlfriend as she escaped down the road.

If you manage to survive all of that intact and make it to the end, when the judge goes on his rant -- for what seemed like an hour -- Ed’s dialogue reaches its zenith in the morality department. Talking about a return to God, Country and the need for an old-fashioned trip to the woodshed to keep the kids in line, I sat stupefied and pondered if Wood had joined the moral majority as they basically replayed the entire film in flashback ... And that's when I realized all they were doing was padding the film out to the required 70-minutes. And even in that, the man failed and blew it by over five minutes.

The Violent Years (1956) Headliner Productions / P: Roy Reid / D: William Morgan / W: Edward D. Wood Jr. / C: William C. Thompson / E:  Gerard Wilson / M: Manuel Francisco / S: Jean Moorhead, Barbara Weeks, Theresa Hancock, Joanne Cangi, Glenn Corbett

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Originally Posted: 10/22/00 :: Rehashed: 04/18/09

Knuckled-out by Chad Plambeck: misspeller of words, butcher of all things grammatical, and king of the run on sentence. Copy and paste at your own legal risk. Questions? Comments? Shoot us an e-mail.
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