So what! Two tales of Juvenile Delinquency

Guest-curated by Roger K. Burton, costume designer and former mod.

The media of the 1950s and early 1960s were obsessed with “rock’n’roll & out of control” juvenile delinquents. American and British filmmakers responded to this debate by producing a number of low budget teenage exploitation movies, most containing a strong moral message.


The Violent Years 

USA 1956. Dir William Morgan.
With Jean Moorhead and Barbara Weeks. 56 min. DVD.

Set in status-conscious mid-50s Los Angeles, and from a screenplay by the one and only Edward D. Wood, Jr. (Plan 9 from Outer Space, 1959) comes a rare girl gang B-movie The Violent Years. As an act of rebellion, spoilt teenage daughter Paula becomes a thrill seeker and turns to crime together with her gang of untamed high school girlfriends. These girls might look sweet and innocent in their California sports styles of tight sweaters, pointy bras, waspy waists and sneakers but don’t let their pretty faces fool you, as they are really cold-hearted criminals, and out to do anything that’s bad.


The Boys
UK 1962. Dir Sidney J. Furie.
With Richard Todd, Dudley Sutton, Robert Morley. 123 min. DVD

The Boys readily illustrates the widespread discrimination directed at post-war youth by a conservative Britain. This gripping film centres around the media controversy that engulfed capital punishment at the time, and was one of the first British social melodramas to acknowledge the rise of teenage gangs and the resulting juvenile delinquency. The title characters are four working class teenagers, described here as “Teddy Boys,” all implicated in the murder of a night watchman. Furie makes a close study of the sartorial choices made by the boys who all sport the latest Italian slim-line style suits, made fashionable in the UK by Cecil Gee during the late 1950s, becoming a precursor to the mod style of the early 1960s.