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Violent Playground (1958)

 |  Drama, Crime  |  7 March 1958 (Ireland)
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Ratings: 6.5/10 from 232 users  
Reviews: 15 user | 1 critic

Struggle between a Liverpool Juvenile Liaison officer and a young and dangerous pyromaniac.



(original screenplay)
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Anne Heywood ...
Johnnie Murphy
John Slater ...
Clifford Evans ...
Moultrie Kelsall ...
George A. Cooper ...
Brona Boland ...
Fergal Boland ...
Michael Chow ...
Sean Lynch ...
Bernice Swanson ...
Meg (as Benice Swanson)
Tommy (as Fred Fowell)


Struggle between a Liverpool Juvenile Liaison officer and a young and dangerous pyromaniac.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

teenager | rock music | See All (2) »


EVERY CITY HAS ITS DANGEROUS YOUTH. Stark, explosive drama - as the camera lays bare the heart of a big city and probe the secrets of its Violent Playground.


Drama | Crime


See all certifications »




Release Date:

7 March 1958 (Ireland)  »

Also Known As:

Desperat ungdom  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Westrex Recording System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.75: 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Shot July-September 1957, copyright 1958. See more »


Despite its Liverpool setting not a single character speaks with a Merseyside (Liverpool) accent in the entire film. See more »


Referenced in Empire of the Censors (1995) See more »


Play Rough
Music by Philip Green (as Phil Green)
Lyrics by Paddy Roberts
Sung by Johnny Luck (Fontana Recording Artist) with Ken Jones and his Orchestra
See more »

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User Reviews

Rarely seen British teen movie triumph
3 April 2000 | by (London, England) – See all my reviews

This film was the first British teen movie to actually address the reality of the violent rock and roll society, rather than being a lucid parody of 1950s teenage life. In an attempt to celebrate the work of Liverpool's Junior Liaison Officers the opening title points out that 92% of potential delinquents, who have been dealt with under this scheme, have not committed a second crime. However, this becomes merely a pretext to the following teen-drama until the film's epilogue where we are instructed that we shouldn't feel responsible or sorry for such delinquents however mixed-up they might seem.

Stanley Baker plays a tough detective who reluctantly takes on the post of Juvenile Liaison Officer. This hard-boiled character is a role typical of Baker. Having been currently on the trail of a notorious arsonist known as the firefly and does not relish the distraction of the transfer. However, as in all good police dramas he is led back full circle by a remarkable turn of events, back to his original investigation.

His first case leads him to the home of two young children, Mary and Patrick Murphy (played by real-life brother and sister duo), who have committed a petty theft. Here he meets Cathie (satisfyingly portrayed by Anne Heywood) their older sister whom he eventually becomes romantically involved with. It quickly becomes obvious that the squalid environment of such inner-city estates is a breeding ground for juvenile delinquency.

The elder brother of the Murphy family, Johnny, is the leader of a gang of rock and roll hoodlums. McCallum does an eye-catching turn as the Americanized mixed-up kid, who owes more to the likes of Marlon Brando, than any previous British star. One is reminded of Brando's character Johnny from 'The Wild One' who led a leather-clad gang of rebellious bikers in much the same way as this film's 'Johnny' leads his gang.

Thankfully the preachiness of earlier Dearden crime dramas such as 'The Blue Lamp' is not so apparent. Instead we are presented with several well drawn-out characters on both sides of the law as the drama of the delinquents and the romantic interest between Heywood and Baker takes the forefront.

The plot, whilst at times predictable, does deliver some memorable scenes. The disruptive influence that rock and roll music was thought to have had is played out in a scene where Johnny abandons himself to the music, leading a menacing advance on the police sergeant. The most grippingly memorable piece of film however is the climatic classroom scene where a bunch of terrified school children, including Mary and Patrick, are held hostage at gunpoint by Johnny. Obviously in the light of the real-life Dumblaine Massacre this scene seems all the horrifying. Understandably because of this the film is seldom aired or available to modern audiences.

24 of 29 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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