Roy Walsh (James Kenney) and his friend Alfie (Ian Whittaker) are two tearaway teens who have taken the step to outright criminality, using the cosh to beat up little old ladies who are defenceless before them, and stealing their money and valuables. However, tonight they are not so lucky to get away, as the coppers find them and bring them to the station; Roy's mother Elsie (Betty Ann Davies) is called, as is Alfie's (Hermione Baddeley), and the magistrate allows the boys to go on a year's probation though he is privately sceptical on whether it will help, especially in the case of the influential wrong 'un Roy. He would be correct in that assumption, as the troublesome youth is already formulating his plans for more wickedness...
Thanks to a few showings on British television down the years, Cosh Boy garnered a small reputation as one of the more notorious juvenile delinquent movies to emerge from the nineteen-fifties, all the more so for being British rather than the higher profile American productions most regularly associated with the genre. This was closer to the social commentary of its most obvious influence, The Blue Lamp, which also featured a dodgy young man getting in over his head when his criminality goes too far; he was played by Dirk Bogarde, who by the point this was released was well on his way to being one of Britain's biggest stars, though that career upturn did not turn out so brightly for Kenney, who remained stuck in the juvenile roles.
Indeed, his career petered out within the decade, and in spite of taking the lead in hit stage play Expresso Bongo, he lost out to playing the part in the movie when another rising star Cliff Richard was cast instead. Kenney eventually gave up acting, and sadly took his own life in the eighties. Watching him in Cosh Boy, it's difficult to tell if he was a great lost talent when he is requested to play close to caricature throughout: there's not one redeeming feature about Roy, he is every parent's nightmare and director and co-writer Lewis Gilbert (at the beginning of a very successful career) laid on his vices so thick that at times this resembled a spoof of the very genre it was attempting to join in with so enthusiastically.
It commenced with a grave title crawl that informed us the cosh was the latest enemy of decency across the land, and the J.D.s using it were a menace to society that had to be crushed with extreme force, so watching this would give you an idea of what those decent folks were up against. It would be difficult for twenty-first century audiences not to titter at least a little when Roy got up to his nasty antics, but while there were a few recognisable faces in the cast (with the inevitable Sid James here as a desk sergeant, for example), there was one genuine superstar to be, though it would take three decades and a glitzy television series to bring about that worldwide fame. Joan Collins, for it was she, was the love interest for Roy, and her character Rene (pronounced "reen" and not René) almost meets her maker because of his evildoings.
It was amusing to watch Collins, one of the main reasons Cosh Boy was recalled at all, as the nice girl whose head is turned when Roy gets his thugs to beat up her boyfriend and he forces himself on her, though quite why she then thought he was a better bet is a mystery that every nice guy who lost a lady to a bad boy will ponder forever. She lives to regret it when he gets her pregnant (one of the plot reasons that this received one of the first X certificates, along with the violence) and she takes drastic action, another victim of the seemingly unstoppable Roy, but what was this? Among the huffing and puffing of Rene's mother, his gran and the local prostitute (Hermione Gingold!) there is someone prepared to stand up to Roy and dole out the beating he so richly deserves, his new Canadian stepdad (Robert Ayres) who is allowed ten minutes by the police to kick the shit out of the snivelling little coward. No psychology courses here, it was a damn good thrashing that would make the delinquents see the error of their ways, another now-ridiculous element of a sincere but misguided relic of a bygone era. Music by Lambert Williamson.