After enjoying Kitten with a Whip so much we just had to see more juvenile delinquent movies. So tonight we watched The Delinquents which, according to the poster, is a “shocking expose of the baby-faces who have just taken their first stumbling step down Sin Street U.S.A.” Sadly the movie isn’t as good as the poster. Surprisingly enough it was written and directed by Robert Altman, who certainly went on to much better things. It doesn’t have the sheer exuberance and glorious excess that makes Kitten with a Whip such a camp classic, nor does it have Ann-Margret whose deliriously over-the-top performance was such a standout feature of Kitten. It does have a very healthy dose of 50s hysteria (it was made in 1957), and one of the most ludicrous voice-overs I’ve ever heard warning of the need to combat this horrifying threat to society.
The story concerns Scotty, a nice boy with a conservative haircut, who becomes involved with a gang of juvenile delinquents after his girlfriend’s father forbids their relationship. At one point he cries, “Why can’t they just leave us alone?” A bit reminiscent of Rebel without a Cause, but without James Dean’s embarrassing Method acting excesses. Pretty soon he gets drawn into a nightmare world of sin in which teenagers listen to crazy music, dance, and sometimes even kiss. No wonder parents were worried. The Delinquents is entertaining for fans of 50s American paranoia, although not really camp enough for my tastes.