4 May 2014 | kevinolzak
Stanley Baker and Peter Cushing
1958's "Violent Playground" hasn't seen much airplay over the years, one of Britain's earliest answers to "Rebel Without a Cause" or "The Blackboard Jungle" (children in jeopardy too often a disturbing reality). The Johnny Luck recording "Play Rough" is heard over the opening credits (and throughout), as Det. Sgt. Jack Truman (Stanley Baker) switches from a case of arson to the Juvenile Liaison Division, unaware that his 'firebug' will soon reveal himself among them. Filming on location in the Gerard Gardens tenement of Liverpool (demolished in 1987), any clichés that pop up scriptwise are averted by strong performances, as the two young twins are surprisingly well played by real life twins Brona and Fergal Boland (never to do another film). Real life siblings Michael Chow and Tsai Chin (Lin Tang opposite Christopher Lee's Fu Manchu) are also cast as brother and sister, while the leads are portrayed by Anne Heywood and David McCallum, still seven years away from THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. but already displaying a smoldering, sullen presence on screen (if perhaps at 24, too old for a teen). Other commentators have complained about the love interest, but it's not that intrusive, while a surprisingly ineffective Priest, Father Laidlaw, is essayed by rising Hammer star Peter Cushing, who at least informs Baker's officer about some of the characters' backgrounds (the two actors would reunite for 1962's "The Man Who Finally Died"). Other Hammer faces on view include Clifford Evans, George A. Cooper, and Melvyn Hayes, the young Baron in "The Curse of Frankenstein," who again worked opposite Cushing in 1959's "The Flesh and the Fiends" and 1979's "Touch of the Sun."