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Film / The Violent Years

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"(An Easter Egg shows) a condensed version of every man's fantasy from THE VIOLENT YEARS... IT DOESN'T HAPPEN—GET OVER IT!"
— DVD Drive-In review

The Violent Years is a 1956 film bringing us the story of one young Paula Parkins. She has it all on the surface... money, things, a lovely house, beauty and youth. However, the movie posits, she lacks the most important thing: true parental attention.

This lack of attention means that Paula must naturally turn to crime to get satisfaction with life. She forms a girl gang with three friends and they end up knocking over gas stations. Eventually they're forced to switch targets, and ultimately Paula seeks greater fare. And boy, does she (and her friends) get it.

Ed Wood didn't direct this film, but he did write it, and had enough ownership in the film that he proudly had the porn producer's office festooned with a poster of it in The Sinister Urge. The film ran for a long time, earning hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue, but Wood only saw $500 from it.

For the Mystery Science Theater 3000 version, please go to the episode recap page.

The Judge's "The Reason You Suck" Speech also provides the intro samples for the Ministry song "So What".

The Violent Years contains the following tropes:

  • Arc Words: "So what?" is used repeatedly by the girls to underscore their uncaring, nihilistic attitude.
  • Alliterative Name: Paula Parkins.
  • Author Appeal: Angora sweater? You bet. Crossdressing? Yep, though in this case it's actually female crossdressing.
  • Badbutt: The girls come off as this during their final crime rampage. See Poke the Poodle, below.
  • Black-and-White Morality: Exemplified by the ridiculously pious judge.
  • Bound and Gagged: The girlfriend of the gang's rape victim is left tied up and gagged in the car while they do the deed.
  • Character Filibuster: The judge's opening monologue morphs into this at the movie's end.
  • Child by Rape: Paula is impregnated by her rape victim. Foresight isn't really her thing.
  • Creepy Crossdressers: Paula and her gang dress as boys during their crimes. They also call themselves by the male equivalent of their names over the phone (as code). Paula is Paul, Phyllis is Phil, etc.
    • Amusingly they don't make any other attempt to hide their gender, so it's not any kind of disguise. They still wear makeup, jewelry, obviously female hairstyles...
    • In an earlier version of the script, the characters were boys. Yes, even Ed Wood had ideas he didn't use.
  • Death by Childbirth: Paula isn't feeling well prior to the birth of her rape victim's kid (there are a couple of hints that it's a difficult pregnancy), and dies during the birth.
  • Deliver Us from Evil: Paula ends up getting pregnant by the man she forcibly had sexual intercourse with during one of her robberies. Although she is mentioned as feeling uncomfortable and having some cramps, she doesn't learn she's actually carrying a baby until she's in prison, making this a Late Pregnancy Realization as well.
  • Dirty Communists: Sheila's dialogue implies that the Soviet Union is paying her, and the girls by extension, to smash up a classroom. It's a seriously stupid example.
  • Double Standard Rape: Female on Male: A noteworthy aversion: Paula's gang terrorizes a local lovers' lane and rapes a young man (off-camera) after tying up his girlfriend. The film establishes that this is a very bad thing the girls have done and is played completely for drama.
  • Downer Ending: Paula gets impregnated by her rape victim, everyone in Paula's gang dies, and Paula herself gets sentenced to life in prison and dies after giving birth to her baby. Furthermore, her parents are denied custody of the child. Basically, it's a Glurge fest in which nobody wins. Nobody.
  • Dull Surprise: The gas station hold up.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Despite claiming to be getting paid by a "foreign power" to wreck a school room, Sheila immediately calls the police when Paula reveals she killed a policeman.
  • Felony Misdemeanor: A "foreign power" wants the girls to crash a school room. Not the entire school, just the room. The movie treats this as the real Moral Event Horizon.
  • Hollywood Law: So the grandparents of an orphaned child have to specifically petition the courts for custody, and the same judge that just presided over a murder trial can turn them down because he thinks they're neglectful note  and a state orphanage is a better place for the baby than with an affluent family? In Real Life - even then - the judge would be overturned on appeal at warp speed, likely followed by a rebuke from the state judicial review board.
    • The judge then advises that families turn to the church, neglecting the idea that there are religions other than Christianity, much less the separation of church and state.
    • He is also neglecting the fact that some religious people aren't very good parents either.
    • The judge also states that the man is an old friend, a.k.a. a clear conflict of interest that would never be allowed.
    • The father isn't even considered for custody. He was a rape victim sure, but nobody even asks him.note 
  • How We Got Here: The movie opens with the judge speaking to Paula's parents about how their neglect led to the current situation.
  • Jerkass: The judge, and Paula to an extent due to her sullen, spoiled nature.
  • Loose Lips: Paula gets her father to talk about the gang case, which lets her know about the cop's plans to have cops plant men in gas stations waiting for robberies.
  • Moral Myopia: After Paula's gang violently storms the classroom while armed, they are shocked, shocked that "[the cops] are shooting back!"
    Servo: (chuckling) What?! The bastards!
  • Motive Rant: Done by the very smarmy judge at the end.
  • Mr. Exposition: The family court judge, who also functions as a bookend for the movie.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Actually averted with Jean Moorhead. There's very little ogling at the Playboy Playmate - unusually for the time, a model's acting skills are at the forefront, not her looks and bod.
  • Poke the Poodle: The gang's (for want of a better word) "rampage" through their school consists mostly of... tipping chairs over and erasing chalkboards. Oh, and killing a cop.
    • Made worse by the fact that killing the cop was almost entirely unintentional (or at least they didn't plan on doing it).
  • Police Are Useless: The police are laughably ineffective at catching the gang. Until the end at least.
  • Poor Communication Kills: The movie would have the audience believe that it's the parents at fault for not paying enough attention to Paula but, at the same time, also clearly shows that she never makes any attempt on her part to disclose to her parents what she really wants from them.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Pretty much all the judge's lines consist of him philosophizing to Paula's parents (and any parents in the audience by proxy) about how their supposed neglect led to everything that happened in the movie.
  • Sexy Sweater Girl: The whole of Paula's gang qualifies (Paula in particular as she's played by October 1955 Playboy Playmate Jean Moorhead), but Sheila's actress is no slouch in this department either.
  • Spinning Paper: Announces the aforementioned rape.
  • Step Three: Profit: Sheila's proposal for the gang to trash the schoolroom, as mentioned in the Dirty Communists entry above, is basically this. Both the audience and the girls are only given incredibly vague reasons as to who would want this to happen and why, for that matter.
  • Tap on the Head: Subverted: one of the girls knocks out the gas station attendant at the beginning with a single whack to the head by Pistol-Whipping. This puts the attendant into a coma from which he may never recover.
  • Tempting Fate: One of the girls makes a comment mocking the policemen shooting at them, only to be shot dead immediately afterwards.
    Phyllis: (bemused) "Look at 'em jump! Just like rabbits!" (gets shot)
    Mike: Rabbits... with... big guns... and... good... aim.note 
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • When in a shootout, always take a moment to gloat.
    • When you are being confronted by a girl gang, the leader of said group having informed you she's killed a cop, by all means pick up the phone and threaten to call the police.
  • Villain Protagonist: We primarily follow Paula and her gang throughout the movie as they commit vandalism, robbery and even darker crimes.