Youth Runs Wild AKA The Dangerous Age

Screening on Film
Directed by Mark Robson.
With Bonita Granville, Kent Smith, Jean Brooks.
US, 1944, 16mm, black & white, 67 min.

Feeling trapped by his remarkable success with horror and supernatural subjects, Lewton asked permission from RKO to produce a topical subject, a film about juvenile delinquency, an issue of renewed concern during the war years when many feared that the absence of fathers, and often mothers, in the service would leave children neglected and prey to bad influences. Crisply directed by Lewton-regular Mark Robson and boasting a laconic yet sensitive script by celebrated Los Angeles novelist John Fante, Youth Runs Wild offers a fascinating glimpse into daily life during wartime told largely from the perspective of disaffected teenagers. While Youth Runs Wild is often dismissed as a minor and anomalous entry in Lewton's oeuvre, the film's unplaceable yet simmering sense of unease is as vivid as his better-known works. In response to negative comments from the US State Department, RKO heavily censored Lewton's cut – removing a scene in which a teenager murders his abusive father – causing Lewton to disown the film.

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The Glitter of Putrescence. Val Lewton at RKO

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