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Violent Playground (1958)

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 ...
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

Tough-as-nails Liverpudlian crime flick
30 June 2014 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

VIOLENT PLAYGROUND sees tough detective Stanley Baker assigned to a new role after falling foul of his boss; he's directed to head up a juvenile crime prevention scheme. Baldwin fears that his new role will be anything but interesting, but things turn out otherwise as a sub-plot involving an arsonist terrorising the streets of Liverpool becomes mixed up with the main story.

This is a gritty, ahead-of-its-time thriller that mixes social drama with a hard-hitting crime flick. It's surprisingly modern in feel, with tight, character-based drama mixed with action, ranging from car chases to hostage scenarios and of course one or two fiery set-pieces. Basil Dearden's black-and-white photography is crisp and clear and he makes sure to elicit strong performances from his cast members.

Baker is one of those underrated actors who sort of got forgotten about after his death, aside from his role in ZULU, of course, but he's very good given the right material and VIOLENT PLAYGROUND is perfectly suited for his talents. Baker is supported by an engaging cast, including Anne Heywood's love interest and Peter Cushing's priest, and it's worth looking out for future stars Tsai Chin and Freddie Starr in more minor parts. The best actor of the lot is David McCallum in a real star-making turn as the disturbed delinquent whose storyline propels the narrative. Altogether VIOLENT PLAYGROUND is a pacey and engaging piece of film-making which mixes drama and thrills in an effective way.

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