A middle-aged couple are standing before a judge in a courtroom, and they are being admonished for allowing their teenage daughter to run rampant. But what did the girl do and more importantly why did it happen? To answer that we must go back in time to witness the mother, Jane Parkins (Barbara Weeks), and the way she would neglect her offspring; she just didn't have time for her, and when Paula (Jean Moorhead) asked for a little heart to heart she brushed her off with excuses. Her father Carl (Arthur Millan) was a busy newspaper editor in much the same position...
Do you want to be lectured on juvenile delinquency by the director of Plan Nine from Outer Space? Well, here's your chance, in this, a drama torn from the headlines by none other than Edward D. Wood Jr who was responsible for the finger-wagging script: former editor (Portrait of Jennie was one of his) turned director William Morgan was at the helm. This has caused The Violent Years to be neglected down the years because it doesn't seem to be "purer" Wood as his higher profile efforts would be when he was calling the shots on the set, but was that fair? Could the essential, weird shoddiness of his oeuvre show through anyway?
Certainly there were scenes here that in the writing came across as somewhat bizarre, including one minor but notorious for those in the know sequence where Paula and her girl gang of three associates, tiring of holding up gas stations, stop a couple in their car with guns drawn. In Wood-esque fashion the female half has to remove her sweater (which doesn't look angora, something that may have rankled him), then her skirt which one girl uses to tie her up with, a little bondage for the fetishists out there. But wait, there's more, as the females kidnap the man and take him to a secluded spot.
Now, you don't see them do very much, but as they hold him at gunpoint and Paula approaches the camera beginning to remove her clothes, the inference is that she raped the fellow - the next thing we see are newspaper headlines screaming that a man has been attacked, leaving us to read between the lines. What Wood was doing with this, you see, was to posit that girl criminals act the way they do because they are in fact pretending to be men, thus they behave as male lawbreakers would, hence the implied rape. Now, ths may be hard to take, but you cannot imagine if the roles had been reversed the results would be quite as campy as the fevered imaginings of the World's Worst Director would have conjured up.
As with many nineteen-fifties crime dramas, there was a price for the audience to pay when vicariously enjoying the antics of gangsters, and that meant a lengthy lecture about where society had gone wrong in producing such evildoers as the teen gang. Before that, we still had the thrills of watching Paula and company go on the rampage as they decide to postpone their robberies for a while and set to trashing the classroom of a despised teacher. You may well have to keep reminding yourself that the central quartet are supposed to be teens, because none of them look a day under thirty - former Playboy centerfold Moorhead looks more like the sister of the woman playing her mother, but that adds to the silliness. Throw in a gun battle with police and a revelation about Paula's physical state which hammers home the bad girl theme and you still had the judge chuntering on about how society had to return to religious values before "The End" appeared. Pretty terrible, then, but not quite Woodly-lunatic enough.