Sub.: John Fante, Herbert Kline, from Are These Our Children?, photo story published on “Look”; Scen.: John Fante; Dial.: Ardel Wray; F.: John J. Mescall; Mo.: John Lockert; Scgf.: Albert S. D’Agostino, Carroll Clark; Co.: Edward Stevenson; Eff. Spec.: Vernon L. Walker; Mu.: Paul Sawtell; Su: Frank McWhorter; Int.: Bonita Granville (‘Toddy’ Jones), Kent Smith (Danny Coates), Jean Brooks (Mary Hauser Coates), Glenn Vernon (Frank Hauser), Vanessa Brown (Sarah Taylor), Ben Bard (Mister Taylor), Mary Servoss (Cora Hauser), Lawrence Tierney (Larry Duncan), Johnny Walsh (Herb Vigero), Dickie Moore (George Dunlop), Rod Rogers (Rocky), Elizabeth Russell (Mrs. Taylor), Juanita Alvarez (Lucy), Gloria Donovan (Nancy Taylor), Jack Carrington (Bart), Ida Shoemaker (giocatrice di carte), Claire Carleton (tassista); Prod.: Val Lewton for Rko Radio Pictures; Fir. pro.: september 1944
James Agee wrote of Youth Runs Wild: “Not even its fault are the usual Hollywood kind: it is gawky, diffuse, rather boyscoutish in tis social attitudes (but it does have attitudes); often as not its characters go wooden (but they never turn into ivorysoap sculpture); too often the photography goes velvety (but always in earnestly straving for a real, not a false, atmosphere and never striving for a sumptuous look). When the picture is good – and its overall inadequacy flashes with good all through – you are seeing pretty nearly the only writing and acting and directing and photography in Hollywood which is at all concerned with what happens inside real and particular people among real and particular objects – not with how a generalised face can suggest a generalised emotion in a generalised light”. One can appreciate Agee’s enthusiasm for Youth Runs Wild. In the midst of Hollywood’s wartime fantasies of heroism and romance, Lewton set about making a small, serious film about the effects of war and how they were altering, even shattering, the social order of the United States. His means were simple – a series of connected vignettes about wartime youth shot in a flat, neo-realistic style. Such an earnest effort surely merited applause and encouragement. Apart from its rather singular view of wartime life in small-town America, however, Youth Runs Wild is barely watchable today. Lewton himself despised the film, which the studio had heavily cut and re-shot, and asked to have his name removed from the credits (the request was denied). One of the major plot-lines – a brutalised teenage boy is forced to kill his sadistic father – was totally excised, and most of the film’s careful distinguishing touches were removed. What is left – a series of cliched dialogues and situations shot in an undisguisable studio back lot – cannot be recommended.
Joel E. Siegel, Val Lewton. The Reality of Terror, Secker and Warburg-British Film Institute, London 1972