Ed Wood prepared (probably lovingly, and by that I mean typing one-handed) the screenplay for this exquisitely dumbfounding melodrama about a quartet of tough high-school girls. About the only difference between this movie and those Wood directed is that there’s no bizarre stock footage padding it out. Jean Moorehead is the leader, Paula, known as “Paul” (the girls refer to each other by the male derivations of their real names — “George” for Georgia, “Phil” for Phyllis, etc.). These four horsewomen of the ’50s apocalypse stick up gas-station attendants, trash their school, and at the height of wackiness molest a man. (The headlines shriek, YOUNG MAN CAPTURED AND ATTACKED BY FOUR GIRLS! Wouldn’t that be a bitch to live down?) The girls look and talk exactly like “good” girls of the era except when they’re smoking, drinking, making out with older guys, and killing cops.
You’ll most likely gaze in disbelief, wanting to show the flick to John Waters, who would probably devoutly wish he’d made it first. (It’s especially funny after you’ve tried to wade through Joyce Carol Oates’ turgid, similarly themed novel Foxfire.) The cackles don’t end once the absurd novelty wears off, though, because scripter Wood limbers up for some of his most agonizingly didactic speeches, usually delivered by a judge, who at the end suggests that parents should raise their children with a healthy respect for “property and human life” — in that order; nice priorities — and, of course, the Church. Then there’s a helpful shot of a church, in case the bad parents in the audience don’t know what one looks like. As a daffy precursor to such genuine riot-grrl classics as Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, The Violent Years is of obvious interest, and even though Wood didn’t actually direct it, he had a way of turning everything he touched into wonderful crap. Wood fans, of course, have no excuse to miss it — though I’d avoid the Rhino video version, which suffers from an annoying intro by Mamie Van Doren.