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36 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great drama
Stanley Baker was one of the 1950's and 60's most reliable and interesting leading men, and his untimely death at the early age of 48 was very tragic, robbing us of a unique talent.

Many of his films are frequently revived on TV but 'Violent Playground' isn't among them, which is a shame, because it's a good, tense thriller. I imagine the climax of the film, in...
Published on 21 Jan 2012 by William Taylor

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars violent playground
Having watched this movie, i quickly took out the "Blackboard Jungle" for comparison.
Vic Morrow and David Mccallum were superb as dilinquents
Published 13 months ago by Viagnette


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36 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great drama, 21 Jan 2012
By 
William Taylor "20CFOX fan" (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Violent Playground (Digitally Remastered) [DVD] (DVD)
Stanley Baker was one of the 1950's and 60's most reliable and interesting leading men, and his untimely death at the early age of 48 was very tragic, robbing us of a unique talent.

Many of his films are frequently revived on TV but 'Violent Playground' isn't among them, which is a shame, because it's a good, tense thriller. I imagine the climax of the film, in which small school children are kept hostage at gunpoint in their classroom, could explain why the film is rarely shown, given the events which occured at Dunblane and elsewhere in recent years.

Stanley Baker is excellent as the police detective who is assigned against his will as a juvenile liason officer in a tough area of Liverpool. We follow his progress, initially resentful of his new role until he begins to see the value of his work. The main plot of the film deals with his struggle with a very young David McCallum, a juvenile delinquent and arsonist who bullies his contemporaries and whose life spirals completely out of control.

The location filming in Liverpool is fascinating, but for some reason the producers decided to use a London location for the school siege - I thought my eyes were deceiving me when I saw a London trolleybus going past in the background (Liverpool never had a trolleybus system)!!

The DVD transfer is very good, sharp, crisp and well contrasted.

A worthy additon to anyone's collection of British cinema.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining 1950's British crime drama, 5 Mar 2012
By 
Colin Smith (England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Violent Playground (Digitally Remastered) [DVD] (DVD)
While searching for the 'Firefly' arsonist, the hardened but sensitive detective Truman (Stanley Baker) feels resentful at being switched from his detective duties to the position of Juvenile Liaison Officer. Then after returning a very young brother/sister shoplifting team to their older sister, Cathie Murphy (Anne Heywood) Truman is immediately attracted to big sister (who wouldn't be!). She herself cannot stand the police but gradually seems to warm to her friendly admirer.

It was then only a question of time before Cathie's brother, Johnnie (David McCallum - why is the bad guy in old crime movies always called Johnnie?) and Truman's paths crossed. Gang leader Johnnie is a very naughty young man, who sees himself as a bit of a 'Godfather' around the high-rise block on the council estate where he lives. He's lean, he's mean, has pyromanic tendencies, and eventually carries a gun (but he's a good kid really!).

Thankfully the script is littered with realistic and believable dialogue, and the movie is expertly directed in the assured hands of Basil Dearden. I was impressed with all the performances, in particular from Messrs Baker, McCallum and Ms Heywood. It's always interesting to see Peter Cushing in a non-horror role, here he plays the part of the wise and compassionate local Priest. The story rattles along at a good pace, with the dramatic 'school seige' scenes handled sensitively.

While also benefiting from some excellent location shooting (in Liverpool) this is a gritty and entertaining 50's 'kitchen sink' crime drama.
The remastered black and white print on this Strawberry Media (ITV Studios) release is very good. There are no extras or subtitles.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars at long last!!!, 16 Jan 2012
By 
jeremiah harbottle (Littlebourne, Kent.) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Violent Playground (Digitally Remastered) [DVD] (DVD)
i have waited for years for "violent playground" to be issued on dvd and now it has!
this is one of stanley baker's greatest films. i can't understand why he has been placed into obscurity, he was a popular actor and leading man at this stage of his career.
the plot involves a liverpool police officer (baker) who is on the trail of an arsonist who has been reeking havoc all over the city. he suspects a young lad by the name of johnny murphy (david mccallum) of being responsible. however, baker's life changes when he is promoted to juvinile liasion officer. he befriends twins paddy and mary murphy and the attractive elder sister (anne heywood), younger brother and sisters of the forementioned johnny. baker eventually changes the lives of the twins, but at a terrible cost.
the pace is quite a fast one as stanley baker sees for himself the various hardships that liverpool's young have to contend with. peter cushing gives his usual brilliant performance as the local vicar, who is able to shed some light on the johnny murphy character.
there is quite a trend in this film, with the american influence of rock 'n' roll playing a considerable part. the script is a good one, with stanley baker, peter cushing and david mccallum receiving the best lines. the direction is solid and dependable as the film builds to a shattering climax that develops the tension to fever pitch.
this is a classic british film as it helped to pave the way for a completely new and different type of film within our film industry.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Snapshot of contemporary fears about fifties youth, 7 Mar 2012
By 
Pismotality (London, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Violent Playground (Digitally Remastered) [DVD] (DVD)
Shot on location in Liverpool by Ealing Films veteran Basil Dearden, and centering around a broken home, this 1958 Rank film offers a snapshot of contemporary British fears about directionless rock'n'roll-crazed youths. It could be considered a companion piece to director Basil Dearden's earlier The Blue Lamp (1950), although in the case of Violent Playground the out-of-control boy at its centre could, the film suggests, have been redeemed at a certain moment.

Stanley Baker is the detective reluctantly transferred to Juvenile Liaison who gets to know prospective hoodlum Johnny (an early role for David McCallum) when his young brother and sister are caught scamming a shopkeeper. As with Dearden's other films (including Victim, a look at homosexuality in the early sixties) a strong social sense makes this more than a thriller or a teen exploitation pic. There are even echoes, in the local priest's attempts at intervention and McCallum's inner torment, to say nothing of his appearance, of a lither (or even Liver-) Brando, in On the Waterfront. And like Brando, McCallum's appearance could suggest devil or angel.

The corny pseudo rock'n'roll (composed by Paddy Roberts) over the titles apart, the one scene which makes use of music as other than background is disturbing: when the boys in McCallum's gang dance together (no girls), as though hypnotised, it is a means of both mocking and threatening the staid Baker.

There, in a single scene, you have rock'n'roll from a terrified adult perspective: the boys do nothing, beyond swaying a little; maybe they're even so stoned (metaphorically speaking) by the music that they're incapable of violence, but that makes it more disturbing, somehow. Throughout that scene they are, to Baker's Juvenile Liaison Officer, an alien tribe, wholly unknowable, not the kind of loveable artful dodgers you can at least get some kind of a handle on. No cuff on the ear will team these demons in waiting.

A critic of the time complained that in attributing juvenile deliquency to rock'n'roll "a fine film has in this scene taken a swipe at the easiest target"; that may be so, but it's the highlight of the film nevertheless. Although Paddy Roberts also wrote songs for the pop market he is perhaps best known these days for his comic songs such as The Ballad of Bethnal Green, which regards teenagers with humorous contempt.

The screenplay, inspired by an actual experiment in Liverpool, is by James Kennaway who later wrote Tunes of Glory, based on his own novel about a Scottish regiment, which produced of Alec Guiness's finest performances. For another look at British attitudes to unruly teenagers see the 1960 film Never Let Go, featuring Adam Faith, although he is only a minor character.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A story filmed on the streets of late 50's Liverpool involving a young arsonist suffering various pressures., 4 Feb 2013
By 
D. J. Ferguson (Isle of Man) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Violent Playground (Digitally Remastered) [DVD] (DVD)
I rated this five stars because, I remember seeing this film some fifty years ago (my 56th birthday today!) and could never remember the title. A particular scene I could recall involved a young Freddie Starr in a shed/shelter, which presented itself as the film played. I am sure people born in the fifties & sixties has similar memories niggling away which I hope are addressed as my was with time.
Born in Formby and travelling to Liverpool for most things like school uniform, dentist, hospital etc, my memories are in black and white (not sure if this is normal) and the back drop to this film is complete nostalgia for me.
Apologies for the wallowing, back to the film plot:
we are introduced to a scene of devastation at the scene of yet another 'fire' in the city, attended to by a youngish Stanley Baker playing the Detective, Jack Truman, who picks up something that gives him a link to the possible perpetrator later on. In the middle of an arsonists campaign the 'Chief' decides to move the young Detective as cover for the Juvenile Liaison Officer (a tad strange...) which brings him into contact with the locally infamous Murphy family. Mother & father long gone the matriarch appears to be the big brother, Johnnie, (played by David McCallum) along with his sister and two more very younger siblings. In his new role dealing with 'children' the Detective becomes attached to Cathie Murphy (Anne Heywood) while still attempting to maintain his professional persona. The local Priest (Peter Cushing) holds sway, as did the Church back in the day, and is a moral oasis for Cathie and to some extent Johnnie, but he is fighting both family, peer and moral pressure which leads to him making bad choices. Meanwhile, the Detective, much to his surprise (as he admits early on he doesn't even like kids) tries to keep the younger Murphy's on the straight and narrow, meeting one of the most enthusiastic Head Teachers I have ever seen from that era, who believes all children are good and are his to care for long after they leave his school. Johnnies 'gang' laugh once too often and at the wrong person which prompts the penultimate event that will culminate in the involvement of the Detective, sister, Head Master, Priest and mothers of Liverpool.
All the while the film rolls on, I am scanning the background, memories abound of the 'old' city, including the over head railway at the docks, the docks themselves, bombed out areas from WW II, old train stations, at which I noticed a poster for a holiday in the Isle of Man, picturing Mooragh Park in Ramsey, which we visit regularly as I have lived in the Isle of Man since 1977, spooky.
Sorry, the film, simple fare, good against bad, post war / pre sixties family life and struggles showing how easy it can be to take the wrong path, some things don't change, peer pressure. Not sure any 'kids' of today would bother with a B&W film, however, if you are a baby boomer, enjoy and if you are from the 'pool' sheer nostalgia.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Burning Down The Scouse, 5 Aug 2014
By 
Arch Stanton (Cornwall, England.) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Violent Playground (Digitally Remastered) [DVD] (DVD)
A tough police detective is forced into taking on the task of Juvenile Liaison Officer, much to his dislike of the idea. Forced into chasing kids who are stealing sweets and playing truant, when he could be out making a real difference, like catching this fire~bug that's torching the City of Liverpool...

Stanley Baker starts out by condoning spousal abuse in this, before eventually becoming a big softy all thanks to the slum kids! That is until an unruly gang, who have nothing better to do, get bored (well, it was set a couple of years before The Beatles were formed!) and get completely out of control in their search for kicks.
Some of the Scouse & Irish accents in Liverpool's slums are a bit shaky to say the least. I think half the time, the cast (mostly McCallum!!), just forgot that they were supposed to be doing them... which led to greater degrees of accent slippage where at one point even Baker loses his cool, and and reverts back to his mother tongue, going all Welsh sounding on us!
With us viewers also being treated to possibly one of Peter Cushing's most sinister performances, as an understanding, yet suspiciously involved priest. Quite why I thought he was sinister, I don't know? He just is! And I really laughed when he got pushed off that ladder!

Of course I'm being rather irreverent here, and in all honesty I was really digging this solid, British youth crime effort, which showcased some nice locations, moments of menace and character interaction (Not to mention McCallum's spazzy dancing!), until about 70m in, when it just began to really start labouring it's point, causing it to drag on in the final third and let down it's closure.
Good print. Zero extras.

3.75/5
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Violent Playground, 25 Jan 2013
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Early on in viewing this film I thought I had bought a dud un. But it warms up nicely. Baker is sometimes only good but then as in Zulu he shines.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Blue Bottle and the Firefly., 12 Jan 2013
By 
Spike Owen "John Rouse Merriott Chard" (Birmingham, England.) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Violent Playground (Digitally Remastered) [DVD] (DVD)
Violent Playground is directed by Basil Dearden and written by James Kennaway. It stars Stanley Baker, Anne Heywood, David McCallum and Peter Cushing. Music is by Phillip Green and cinematography by Reginald H. Wyer.

Detective Sergeant Jack Truman (Baker) is taken off an arsonist case to become a Juvenile Liason Officer. This brings him into contact with the Murphy family on the tough Liverpool estate of Gerard Gardens. As he fights to keep the young Murphy twins from a potential life of crime, his focus is seriously challenged when he starts to fall for the children's elder sister and guardian, Catherine (Heywood). More pressing, maybe? Is the presence of the brother, Johnny (McCallum), who is the leader of the local gang of Suede Heads.

Tough, gritty semi-documentary slice of British realism that features juve delinquency as its centre point. As Britain moved into the 50s, the Liverpool police force experimented with policemen who became Juvenile Liason Officers, their job was to stop young kiddies from moving into crime, a sort of nip it in the bud programme if you like. Violent Playground covers this experiment and links it in with a roguish elder relative, impoverishment, gang culture and a concurrent case of a pyromaniac on the loose. All of which is set to a backdrop of Rock "N" Roll music and an authentic run down Liverpool estate. It's tough in this part of Britain and grim period flavours are clinically brought to life by Dearden and his team.

Kennaway's screenplay is convincing in its literacy. It manages to not soft soap the problems inherent within the Murphy family (no parents, estate living, financial struggle et al), while many conversations strike a realistic chord, such as one that has police officers casually chat about the young kids breaking into coin operated gas metres, you see the travelling funfair is in town and thus this certain crime rises! Dirty faced kids are on the streets shoplifting or trying to pinch fruit from the stalls, so the cops are trying to stop the "second" crime in an area that is a breeding ground for crime, a step-up to a visit to the magistrate, and again Kennaway's pen lets us know that it's at aged 8 when the kids start to become at the mercy of the courts. It's all very informative and aware.

A number of scenes impact hard. As a fire rages, the latest work of the arsonist, the whole area comes out to watch with a sort of resigned acceptance of the crime. There's the deft (daft) inference that Rock "N" Roll is corruptible, in this instance it reduces "Johnny's" gang into Village of the Damned like aggressors, while the extended finale, where a gun comes into play, hits like a bolt of depressive tinged lightning. The supporting cast give very credible performances (though more Cushing as the tough but kindly priest would have been welcome), but the greatness comes from Baker who turns in an absorbing and sympathetic portrayal of a cop being pulled in different directions. While McCallum is wonderfully moody and schizophrenic as our troubled chief delinquent.

Now available on remastered DVD, this under seen film is waiting to be discovered by more people with an appreciation of classic British drama. 8/10
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stan, the man !!!, 13 Oct 2012
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A wonderful British forerunner of British New Cinema, b/w - with the brilliant, so very underrated, but so great, timeless & gifted Stanley Baker in the lead !!! And at his best - tough & vulnerable & in his way so handsome! He had one of the most interesting faces in (British) film history - a landscape ! (See him in Joseph Losey's EVA - unbelievable good !!)This film is worth of watching more than 1 time ! Very Recommended !! I love this film !!!
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars TEDDY BOY MAYHEM!!!, 24 Mar 2012
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This review is from: Violent Playground (Digitally Remastered) [DVD] (DVD)
At last the best original Teddy Boy movie is out on dvd!!!
Do not miss this classic film.Starring the excellent David McCallum (The Man From U.N.C.L.E.) and the always brilliant Stanley Baker (Hell Drivers,Zulu,ect)./
Brilliant right through 'till it's wild finale.ENJOY!!!
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