The Delinquents (Robert Altman / U.S., 1957):

The "violence and immorality" of adolescent unrest, served up by neophyte Robert Altman as mercurial jazz rather than the subgenre’s usual rock ‘n’ roll. As in Ray’s Bigger Than Life, this "cry to a busy world" roasts the suburban normalcy it supposedly upholds -- adult outrage over teenage sweethearts hoping to "go steady" is the catalyst for youth to run wild, parents meanwhile line up in front of a TV set (Camus’ The Fall is prominent in the bookshelf). The messed-up lad (Tom Laughlin) seeks sanctuary at a drive-in, there he crosses paths with rumbling gel-heads led by Peter Miller. Their raucous joyride tears through taverns, gas stations and living rooms, though the high point remains a soiree held at an abandoned mansion, perhaps the young filmmaker’s vision of freaky creative impudence taking over a musty studio system. Despite the Method earnestness of Laughlin’s desperate-to-fit-in protagonist ("such a little boy..."), Altman clearly identifies with the disruptive energy of the delinquents, shake-up artists gleefully burning holes in Eisenhower’s starched suit. Already, there’s the sense of a searching eye trying on and discarding cinematic conventions, anticipating the shifting plate tectonics of the following decade’s Old and New Hollywood, closer to Penn’s The Chase than to Blackboard Jungle. With Richard Bakalyan, Rosemary Howard, Leonard Belove, and Christine Altman. In black and white.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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