Plot: Paula (Jean Moorhead) seems like she would be a model citizen, given her family’s well to do nature and all the perks that go along with that, but in truth, Paula gets her kicks on the wild side. Her parents might have money and provide her with luxuries, but she gets little attention and seeks out her own brand of attention, which she earns with various criminal enterprises. She leads her own girl gang into heists and robberies, then fences the goods to local criminals, but she is really motivated by the thrills more than the cash. But when the thrill starts to wane, Paula just begins to escalate her crimes, with no end in sight. Will she evade the authorities and continue her larcenous ways, or will justice finally catch up with her?
Entertainment Value: This one is an easy sell for those who appreciate cult films, an all girl gang of juvenile delinquents, as written by Ed Wood. That premise is gold and as it turns out, The Violent Years is a fun piece of melodramatic social panic cinema, packed with dysfunction and drama. Of course, the movie tries to pretend it has society’s best interests at heart and seeks to be a cautionary tale, but this is more exploitation and cheap thrillers than education or social concern. Paula is our central figure and she is off the rails, a crime machine that is driven by those cheap thrills and shows no remorse, just excitement for the next crime. As she escalates her out of control behavior, human lives cease to be of importance to her, so she kills when she feels the need and seems to even take a male hostage, just for sexual kicks. Now this is a 50s movie, so violent is non graphic and the most sinister moments are more hinted at than shown, but it still has a cheap, sleaze driven vibe, in my opinion. Her wild nature drives the picture, with the social redemption elements at either end of the movie, reminding us how shameful those thrills in the middle should be. If you’re a fan of teen troublemakers, social panic, or Ed Wood, you’ll have a lot of fun with The Violent Years.
No nakedness. But Paula does force a girl to take off her blouse and it is strongly suggested that she and her crew rape a man, so it doesn’t shy away from sleaze, it just implies more than shows. No blood. Paula unleashes violence in the streets and even kills some folks, but even close range gun shots yield no bloodshed. This is to be kind of expected, given the time period involved and in truth, I think the overly fake violence just adds to the fun here. This one has some fun lines, with tough girl talk, dramatic parents, and tough love from the legal system, but Paula’s rampant ego supplies most of the best moments. She is so blase about murder and her other crimes, you can’t help laugh, especially given how wooden her performance is. This holds true of the entire cast really, with performances that are so stilted, even basic lines tend to sound ridiculous, which is always fun. I think genre fans will find at least a few highly quotable lines here, plus a wealth of fun, wooden exchanges. This one feels wild, from the girl gang premise to the hilariously bad performances to the heavy handed morality lectures, so crazier than most films of this kind. It also packs all the wackiness into a rather short run, so it earns some solid points.
Overall Insanity: 5/10