A note from Lindsey: This film was originally released as a double bill with Juvenile Jungle (1958), so I decided to watch them as a Netflix double bill. A review of Juvenile Jungle will be posted tomorrow!
Rick (Scott Marlow), Allie (Weston Gavin) and BeeJay (Tom Gilson) are three punks are looking to take a joy ride, so they steal a car – or as they would say, take a car that was nicely “left” for them with the keys still in it.
But the “fun” doesn’t stop there – the guys decide to harass a young couple, Valarie (Carolyn Kearney) and Jerry (Robert Arthur), at a drive-in diner. Eventually things get violent, with the three men attacking the couple.
Luckily the couple survives, but with more than a few bruises (both emotional and physical). Detective Sgt. Fred Janusz (Gene Evans) tries to help them catch the men who did this to them, but it’s a difficult search since the men aren’t identified in any police records.
Meanwhile, the terrible actions of these three idiots continue to escalate, leading to plenty of destruction and even death.
William Witney directs 1958’s Young and Wild. The film’s original screenplay was written by Arthur T. Horman (1942’s Captain of the Clouds). Witney and Horman worked together on numerous projects, including Juvenile Jungle (1958).
Young and Wild isn’t your average juvenile delinquency film. Usually the situations the supposed “delinquents” get into are minor infractions, like breaking the dress code at school or staying out past curfew. The three hoodlums in this film, however, are completely deplorable. There are still a few laughable scenes here, but for the most part these guys are terribly menacing and the film has a more serious tone than most of the films of the genre.
Since the story itself has a more serious edge, this film makes for an engrossing drama rather than a corny tale of teens gone “bad.” In fact, it becomes quite a tense crime drama as the delinquent action calms a bit (at least for a while) and the focus becomes the police investigation.
The performances are also very realistic here, particularly that of Scott Marlowe. His character, Rick, is the leader of the gang. In the beginning (and intermittently throughout the remainder) of the film Marlowe perfectly pulls off his character’s dark side. At other times, such as when Rick speaks to the cops or his mother, Marlowe is very convincing as an “innocent” man, making it easy to see why people would fall for his lies.
This double-sided aspect of Marlowe’s performance also does a great job of drawing the viewer into the film, because he leaves us wondering whether he’s actually going to get away with these crimes.
The character development isn’t phenomenal and the story is a somewhat predictable, but overall Young and Wild is a pretty great watch. Released by the independent production-distribution corporation Republic Pictures, the film has been largely forgotten, lost amongst the hundreds of B-movies neglected by modern audiences, and unfairly so.
Clocking in at just over an hour, Young and Wild is definitely worth a watch, not just for fans of the juvenile delinquency genre but for fans of drama (crime drama in particular) in general. The score: 4.5/5
(Young and Wild is available for instant streaming on Netflix.)