Tuesday, November 28, 2017

THE VIOLENT YEARS (1956) (AGFA Blu-ray review)


Label: AGFA (American Genre Film Archive)
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 65 Minutes 
Audio: English DTS-HD MA Mono 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Director: William Morgan
Cast: Jean Moorhead, Barbara Weeks, Art Milan

Synopsis: "I shot a cop... SO WHAT!" So say the girl gang thrill-killers of Ed Wood's delirious THE VIOLENT YEARS! Written by legendary Hollywood outsider Edward D. Wood, Jr. (PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE), this is the story of Paula Parkins, a good-girl-gone-bad who leads her degenerate teenage hellcats down a path of gas station hijackings, pajama party orgies, and cold-blooded murder! From Wood's patently deranged dialogue to the scene where the gang performs a ''man attack,'' THE VIOLENT YEARS is an essential expose on crime, gender politics, and sweater-stealing. Remember, ''This is a story of violence!''

Teen delinquency films were quite a thing in the 50's, dire warnings of the most exploitative kind, salacious exposes of what unchecked youth can get up to without proper parental supervision and moral values. Such is the story of the perky nice-girl Paula Perkins (Jean Moorhead, Playboy Playmate 1955), daughter of workaholic  newspaper editor Carl (Arthur Millan) and social-bee Jane (Barbara Weeks), both are so preoccupied with their own lives to give much thought to their daughter and what she's up to. As it turns out she is the ringleader of an all-girl gang of juvie-delinquents along with school pals Phyllis (Gloria Farr), Geraldine (Joanne Cangi), and Georgia (Theresa Hancock). The teens go out at night and violently rob gas stations, also getting their kicks by sexually assault young men! However, when a night out destroying a highschool classroom goes wrong the cops show up and a shootout ensues, a cop dies, and young Ms. Perkins winds up on trial and imprisoned for life for her crimes. Not to worry though, her life doesn't end up being all that long. The movie begins and ends with a judge, played by I. Stanford Jolley (The Crimson Ghost) shaming the parents for being absent in their daughters life, leading to her moral decay. It's another highlight of this over-dramatic and deliciously awful slice of teen delinquency. Having been written (not directed) by Ed Wood (Plan 9 from Outer Space) this one was never gonna be a dramatic masterpiece, while the film is not too poorly shot, it is woodenly acted and badly edited, but damn if it isn't a trashy slice of 50's exploitation, chock full of busty teenage nihilism.

Audio/Video: Teenage delinquent cult-classic The Violent Years (1965) arrives on Blu-ray from AGFA with a brand new 4K scan of the original camera negative. The black and white image looks strong there's some minor print damage by way of speckling, scratches and frame damage, but the contrast is good, it truly is a revelation compared to what we had before. Audio comes by way of an English DTS HD MA Mono 2.0 track that sounds good, appropriately  flat and unremarkable, but surprisingly clean. Optional English subtitles are provided. 

Onto the extra we begin with a new audio commentary from Basketcase director Frank Henenlotter and Ed Wood biographer Rudolph Grey, a fun listen, Grey has an early draft of the script in front of him which they occasionally reference, Grey having interviewed Ed Wood has lots of great stories, and Henenlotter is a treasure trove of juvenile delinquent cinema trivia. We also get 15-min of Gutter-noir trailers from the Something Weird vault, 10-min of footage Ed wood shot for an unfinished feature called Hellborn (from a poor VHS source), and a wonderfully  salacious theatrical trailer for The Violent Years. 

Making this release a double-feature we get Anatomy of a Psycho (1961), presented in a raw 2K scan of a theatrical print, framed in 1.78:1 widescreen with DTS-HD MA Mono 2.0 audio, optional English subtitles provided for this one, too. The source has plenty of scratches but looks remarkably good, the first few minutes and the last few are the worse for wear, but easily blowing away anything I've seen previously on numerous public domain budget collections, though I have not seen the Vinegar Syndrome release. Directed by Boris Petroff Anatomy of a Psycho stars Ronnie Burns as teenage Chet, who is driven to the edge of insanity by the execution of his older brother. After having his face slashed in a senseless alley-way brawl paranoia begins to set in, everyone around him seems an enemy. Chet turns to his sweet younger sister, his slutty girlfriend, and even his old poker buddies for solace, but each seem to have real or imagined links back to the ill-fated trial that condemned his brother, thus aggravating Chet's growing psychosis. After viciously assaulting the prosecuting attorney's son the troubled youth draws the attention of detective Lt. Mac. Spiraling out of control Chet commits an arson and then a senseless murder. With Lt. Mac ratcheting up the pressure, he sinks deeper and deeper into the bottomless pit of his own psychotic delusions. Notably, this was actor Ronnie Burns final performance, he being the adopted son of George Burns and Gracie Allen.

This single-disc Blu-ray comes in a clear Blu-ray keepcase with a sleeve of reversible artwork, plus a collector's booklet with an introduction from Joseph A. Ziemba, excerpts from the Something Weird paper archive, including what appears to be a shooting script, images from the film, behind the scenes pictures, plus we get notes about the transfer, production credits, and info about AGFA and Something Weird Video.  

Special Features: 
- New 4K scan from the original 35mm camera negative!
- Commentary track with Director Frank Henenlotter and Ed Wood biographer Rudolph Grey!
- Theatrical Trailer (2 min) HD 
- Hellborn (10 min) HD 
- Gutter-noir trailers from the Something Weird vault! (15 min) HD 
- Bonus Movie: ANATOMY OF A PSYCHO (1965), new 2K scan from an original 35mm theatrical print! (74 min) HD 
- Booklet with Memorabilia scrapbook

The Violent Years (1956) is a super-trashy slice of 50's teenage delinquency cinema, it's a poorly made and stiffly delivered piece of work, but this thing had me laughing for the whole hour! Teenage girls knocking over gas stations is just the beginning, then it's onto destroying classrooms and unwittingly carrying out a clandestine commie agenda, layer onto that the teens group-raping a man off screen (we hear him screaming), plus a cop killing and a jailhouse pregnancy that goes horribly wrong. There's a lot of bad here to love. While I'm not sure how many folks were screaming for a definitive Blu-ray edition of this delinquent teen cult-classic I know that AGFA and Something Weird Video had to be the ones to do, so dig in. 

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