The Violent Years

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The Violent Years
The Violent Years poster.jpg
Theatrical poster
Directed byWilliam Morgan
Produced byRoy Reid
Written byEd Wood
StarringJean Moorhead
CinematographyWilliam C. Thompson
Edited byGerard Wilson
Distributed byHeadliner Productions
Release date
  • 1956 (1956)
Running time
65 minutes
CountryUnited States

The Violent Years is a 1956 American exploitation film directed by William Morgan and starring Jean Moorhead as Paula Parkins, the leader of a gang of juvenile delinquent high school girls. The film is notable for having an uncredited Ed Wood as the author of its screenplay. It was released in 1956 on a double bill with the German import Conchita and the Engineer (aka Macumba).


The Violent Years

Paula Parkins, the spoiled daughter of well-to-do newspaper-editor Carl and socialite Jane, gets her kicks by organizing and directing a gang of bored young women like herself. The gang's core members -- besides Paula -- are Georgia, Phyllis, and Geraldine ("George", "Phil", and "Gerry" for short). The gang dresses in men's attire, robs gas stations, and terrorizes habitués of a local lovers' lane...even raping a young gentleman (off-camera) after tying up his girlfriend.

Paula obtains inside information, from her father, regarding police plans to capture her gang; thus, ironically, the girls avoid capture with Carl's unwitting complicity. After a make-out party with local gangsters, Paula and Company agree to wreck classrooms — and destroy the American flag — at a local public high school, at the behest of crime boss Sheila. (The film implies that Sheila is in league with the Communist Party and their anti-American movement.) The girls perform said job with gleeful competence until the police arrive and a deadly shootout takes place. Gerry and Phil are fatally shot while fleeing the wrecked school; Paula herself guns down one of the cops. Seeking refuge from the police, George and Paula return to Sheila's, where they report their wrecking of the school. But Sheila, who never had any intention of paying the girls, attempts to have them arrested as "loose ends"; as she reaches for the phone, Paula shoots and kills her. A highway patrolman notices the girls driving Sheila's car and wearing clothes from her wardrobe. In the heat of the ensuing car chase, the girls crash their car through a store's plate-glass window; George is killed and Paula is hospitalized. Because Paula is a minor and therefore ineligible for the death penalty, the judge sentences her to life imprisonment without possibility of parole. However, Paula gets a reprieve of sorts...dying from the complications of giving birth to a child she accidentally conceived during her make-out party with Sheila's fellow mobsters. The judge who delivered Paula's conviction also denies Jane and Carl custody of their granddaughter, based on the neglectful way they raised Paula.

The cynical tag line "So what?" is used repeatedly by the girls to underscore their uncaring, nihilistic attitude.


  • Jean Moorhead as Paula Parkins
  • Barbara Weeks as Jane Parkins
  • Arthur Millan as Carl Parkins
  • Theresa Hancock as Georgia
  • Glen Corbett as Barney Stetson
  • Joanne Cangi as Geraldine
  • Gloria Farr as Phyllis
  • Lee Constant as Sheila
  • I. Stanford Jolley as Judge Clara
  • Timothy Farrell as Lt. Holmes
  • F. Chan McClure as Det. Artman
  • Bruno Metsa as Manny
  • Harry Keaton as Doctor


The film's working title was "Teenage Killers".[2] Although the opening credits indicate that Headliner Productions copyrighted the film in 1956, it is not included in the Copyright Catalog.[3] The Violent Years was actually based on the story by Roy Reid.

Critical Reception[edit]

Film historian Leonard Maltin savaged the picture: "Tawdry and preachy, with wooden-Indian acting all around...Fans of the one, the only, Ed Wood are in for a treat; however, if it's Another Clockwork Orange you're expecting, bring plenty of salt!" [4]

In popular culture[edit]

The industrial metal band Ministry incorporated many lines of the film's dialogue in their song "So What" from the 1989 album The Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Taste. Long stretches of the judge's monologue are used in two different parts of the song ("you have had all that money can give you...", "kill for a thrill", etc), as well as multiple characters' readings of the song's titular line.

The film was mocked on a 1994 episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 (Season 6, Episode 10). Subjects for jokes included the occasionally wooden acting, the same car-on-road shots being repeated, and the judge's rambling closing monologue.

Home media[edit]

The film was released on VHS several times, including a release under Rhino's "Teenage Theater" banner- hosted by Mamie Van Doren. The film received several DVD releases of varying quality, one from Something Weird Video, as part of the Ed Wood box set 'Big Box of Wood, and the box set of vintage exploitation films called Girls Gone Bad.

In 2017, the film was released on Blu-ray through a partnership by Something Weird Video and the American Genre Film Archive (AGFA) including a commentary track from Frank Henenlotter and Rudolph Grey.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Violent Years TCM Notes
  2. ^ The Violent Years TCM Notes
  3. ^ The Violent Years TCM Notes
  4. ^ Maltin's TV, Movie, & Video Guide
  • The Haunted World of Edward D. Wood, Jr. (1996), documentary film directed by Brett Thompson
  • Rudolph Grey, Nightmare of Ecstasy: The Life and Art of Edward D. Wood, Jr. (1992) ISBN 978-0-922915-24-8

External links[edit]