Delinquents, The (1957)

“These kids today have no sense of responsibility… None at all!”

Delinquents Poster

Synopsis:
When a teenager (Tom Laughlin) is told he can’t see his girlfriend (Rosemary Howard) anymore, he accidentally gets involved with a gang of juvenile delinquents (led by Peter Miller) who lead him down a dangerous path.

Genres:

Review:
Robert Altman’s debut film (which he later dismissed as a film with no “meaning for anybody”) shows little evidence of what was to become his signature directorial style, yet nonetheless demonstrates his burgeoning ability to take pulp thematic material and turn it into a reasonably compelling drama. Brooding Tom Laughlin — channeling James Dean — is fine in the lead role as an upstanding teen who becomes unwittingly embroiled in juvenile gang shenanigans; it’s refreshing to see him hold his own rather than caving in (as one would expect) to the “allure” of peer pressure. The storyline is simple but relatively fresh for the genre, with the final third of the film actually generating some true tension as Laughlin and his naive girlfriend find themselves trapped in the snares of their ruthless hostages. Ignore the laughably campy opening and closing narration (“The story you are about to see is about violence and immorality — teenage violence and immorality, children trapped in the half-world between adolescence and maturity…”) as merely a convention of the times; fortunately, it does little to detract from the rest of the film.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Tom Laughlin as Scotty
    Delinquents Scotty

Must See?
No, but it’s worth a look simply for its importance as Altman’s first film.

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One Response to “Delinquents, The (1957)”

  1. First viewing – not a must.

    Not downright awful, but not all that interesting either. Since Altman clearly knew his way with camera set-ups, shot framing and keeping B-class actors focused (all of the requisite genre characters are on-board for this one, natch), this is a competent-enough example of films of this type. But it’s still not very memorable.

    Laughlin does turn in the ‘best’ performance (similar to but less neurotic than Dean in ‘Rebel…’) but no one else registers all that much – and the girlfriend is a particular pill. (I realize her character is 16, but the dialogue between the young lovers is also painfully dull, making us quickly wonder what the mutual attraction here is – it’s certainly not sex since the chemistry is at zero.)

    I will say the depiction of Laughlin’s friendly, caring relationship with his younger sister is touching.

    The closing narration is especially laughable (I actually did chuckle) – as it implies that, with a little extra effort, all bad behavior everywhere can be done away with once and for all, never to be seen again: “…by working with your church group…” Oh, please! 😉

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