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The Violent Years (1956)

The Violent Years follows a quartet of teenaged girls as they rob gas stations, carry out “lover’s lane” attacks (tying up a young woman and gang-raping her boyfriend), use their connections to stay one step ahead of the police, have “petting” parties, fence stolen jewels, trash a high school on behalf of the Communists, shoot it out with the police, and give birth behind bars.

I had this movie on VHS in high school. I used to watch it. A lot.

Until I watched this great-looking restoration from AGFA, however, I didn’t realize this movie was shot in widescreen. It was so obviously cheap I just assumed it had been shot in full-frame, like a TV episode.

I knew who Ed Wood was but I wasn’t an aficionado (I still haven’t seen Plan 9 from Outer Space). I did know his reputation, and it was obviously his involvement writing The Violent Years that kept it in circulation. I don’t think I liked this movie so much because it was “so bad it’s good.” I was a huge David Lynch fan (still am), and this kind of film is the closest cinematic equivalent to what he was doing in the ’80s and ’90s. Not surreal, exactly, but genuinely weird. The dialogue is so bizarrely written, but the performances are so earnest.

The briskness of the film is another huge point in its favor. I never realized before that this thing was under an hour long. So much happens in it, and even if the plotting, performances, and “ideas” are laughable, it never stops moving for a second.

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