The Violent Years (1956): Special Edition [Blu-Ray]

This is the story of Paula Parker, a petulant prepubescent princess whose depravities produced a plethora of death and deception. For shame, parents of Paula Parker, you dare not look after your teen daughter in the age of the fifties where crime was rampant. For the first time on Blu-Ray, it’s also a worthwhile title for collectors thanks to AGFA, “The Violent Years” is one of the many infamous baby boomer products of fear and hysteria that warned of a world filled with darkness, crime, debauchery, and premarital sex. Make no mistake, your teen would smoke the marijuana, and tongue kiss way before they matured in to upstanding citizens.

Paula Parker is the leader of a gang of teenage girls, all of whom get their kicks by robbing local gas stations and grocery stores for the sake of entertainment. Paula and her four gal pals live fairly boring lives, and decide to go under the hiring of a sexy female gangster named Sheila (Lee Constant, humina, humina). She begins fetching resources for them to commit their robberies and begins demanding more money for their crimes, despite also pledging to turn them in if the police come back to her. After spending a lot of their time trying to find out how on to them the police are, Paula and her friends rob a young couple on the side of the road and rape a young man. This is foreshadowed to have immense repercussions in the finale, but mostly Paula spirals in to a whirlpool of murder and deception that gets her in to big trouble.

Wood’s direction is lackluster and the energy and pacing are just lethargic. It’s best to appreciate this in its cult context, as it tends to move at a slug’s pace right down to the badly edited shoot outs and poorly staged car chases. It also has the benefit of being one of the few gangster pictures from the early twentieth century that revolved around women, and the film tends to sidestep a lot of clichés in regards to young women. The characters here are tough, grizzled, and lacking in vulnerability. They even barely cry when they’re shot down by police. Despite taking on the guise of a gangster picture, it’s nothing but a PSA much like “Reefer Madness” that ends on a very heavy final scene. It’s lacking in style and humor like most of Wood’s films, but it’s at least worth watching for cult and underground movie buffs and Wood fanatics.

Featured on the brand new Blu-Ray is a commentary track with filmmaker Frank Henenlotter and Ed Wood biographer Rudolph Grey, both of whom have a lot of fun discussing the film; it’s very much NSFW, so watch this with a liberal audience. There’s the original trailer for “The Violent Years,” and fifteen minutes of Gutter Noir trailers from the “Something Weird” Vault.

“Hellborn” is candid raw footage of an aborted Ed Wood movie that was shot after “The Violent Years.” It’s mostly from a VHS, and has some footage of Wood in drag. Last, but definitely not least, there’s a bonus movie titled “Anatomy of a Psycho” included, centering on a young boy who experiences a mental break down due to his brother being a convicted killer. Among the packaging, there’s a wonderful insert booklet with stills and essays by AGFA.