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Sadly when you watch a film that is 60 years old, you may be lucky if only one or two members of the cast are still alive. As of April 2018, Violent Playground has several members of cast not only alive but still performing such as David McCallum, Michael Chow, Tsai Chin, Freddie Starr and Melvyn Hayes.
Director Basil Dearden as he did in Sapphire and would go on to do in Victim, makes a melodrama dealing with social issues.
Set in post war Liverpool, Stanley Baker plays Detective Truman, he is unmarried, has no kids and he is assigned to work in the with a juvenile division, something he is not keen on. His brief is to stop youngsters living in the poverty ridden part of the city, entering a life of crime.
He ends up dealing with a pair of young twins who were caught shoplifting. Truman is comfortable at first dealing with the kids but as he takes them home to their block of flats he comes to a bunch of older unruly youths such as their older brother Johnnie (McCallum) who might be behind a string of arson in the city. Truman also gets involved romantically with Johnnie's sister.
Johnnie is rather unhinged, in the past he was feted a hero but the film climaxes as Johnnie holds young children in a school hostage in an armed seige.
The film is not totally convincing as it seems the director is uncomfortable in how to deal with the social justice aspects of the story. It wants to be The Blackboard Jungle but it does not get there. Many of the actors have non Scouse accents which is a surprise as McCallum was supposed to be an early British actor influenced by the method acting techniques. Baker's character gets too comfortable, too early as a Juvenile officer, able to understand the issues facing the young kids, although that might be just to expedite the story. Some of the scenes of the youths enjoying rock n roll music and dancing to it just looks silly, making a link to music and juvenile delinquency.
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