The Violent Years (1956)

Originally called Teenage Girl Gang or Teenage Killers, this movie is everything I want out of film. If you’ve ever heard the Ministry song “So What,” you’ve heard pretty much the best lines in the movie, most importantly “I shot a cop — SO WHAT!”

This was anonymously written by Ed Wood and was the most financial successful film that he was ever associated with. It was directed by William Morgan, who mainly worked as an editor.

Paula Parkins (Jean Moorhead, Playboy Playmate of the Month for October 1955) might be the rich daughter of a newspaper editor and a socialite, but she gets her kicks by getting her galpals together and dressing like men to rob gas stations and terrorize lover’s lanes. In fact, they go so far as to assault a young man after tying up his girl Shirley. Yes, that was also Ed Wood’s cross-dressing alter ego name, which features prominently in many of his films. And yes, that woman side is being tied up so that the male side can be abused.

These girl gangsters, however, are beyond forward-thinking. You could consider them actual riot-causing girls. In another Wood-written trick, they all have names that can easily be switched from female to male: Paula could be Paul, Geraldine is Gerald, Phyllis or Phil and Georgia can easily change her name to George.

After a makeout party with some male gangsters, the girls decimate a school and even desecrate the flag, totally anarchic behavior for 1956. The cops get called in and two of the girl gang are shot and killed before Paula kills a cop in cold blood.

Finally, after a car chase, Paula crashes through a window, killing the last member of her crew and winding up in the hospital herself, where she dies giving birth to her bastard child. Her parents are denied custody because they’re unfit parents and that child goes into the system, where probably she will turn out just as bad as her mother. So what!

I watched this movie for the first time when I was a teenager and it made me murderously happy and wished that Paula and her gang were real, in my school setting things on fire and ready to slap me around.

God bless you, Ed Wood.

Rhino released this as part of their Mamie Van Doren-hosted Teenage Theater line, along with Teenage Devil DollsNaked YouthWild Guitar and High School Caesar.

You can watch this on Tubi, The Internet Archive and Amazon Prime. The American Genre Film Archive has also released a bells and whistles packed blu ray complete with a new 4K scan from the original 35mm camera negative and commentary from Frank Henenlotter and Wood biographer Rudolph Grey. Plus, it also has a 2K scan of Anatomy of a Psycho. You can get it at Amazon or Diabolik DVD.

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