From Teddy Boy Tear-ups to Glam Rock Romps.
Opened by Bill Haley’s rebellious 'Rock Around the Clock', Richard Brooks' 'Blackboard Jungle' attracted riots from Teddy Boys across the country, and would later be criticised by authorities as an incitement to crime.
Film as Cultural Response
Lewis Gilbert's 'X-rated Cosh Boy' (or 'The Slasher' in the US) reflected the cultural anxiety concerning the Teds and 'juvenile delinquency'. It stars James Kenney as the beastly Roy Walsh, who uses gang force to terrorise the women of post-war London, and overpower love interest, Rene (played by Joan Collins). Nineteen-year-old Derek Bentley had been found guilty of murdering a policeman in Croydon shortly before Cosh Boy released, leading the film to be banned in many cinemas.
Kitchen Sink Realism
The movement is often called 'kitchen sink realism', and includes Karel Weisz's adaptation of Alan Silitoe's 'Saturday Night and Sunday Morning'. While the novel deals with abortion and seduction, censors insisted the film instead reflect a failed abortion and later miscarriage.
The Lambretta, Vespa, ska and modern jazz continue to be emblems of the 1960s Mod culture. Though the period is famously immortalised in Michelangelo Antonioni's 'Blow Up'. British director Desmond Davis satirised the boutique-studded glitz of Carnaby Street in his 1967 film, 'Smashing Time'.
The subculture saw a resurgence in the late 1970s with Franc Roddam’s 'Quadrophenia'.
Ken Russell's epic 1975 rock opera 'Tommy' wears Glam’s sensational attitude on its sleeve. A visual retelling of The Who's album of the same name, Tommy sees a disabled boy become a modern-day Messiah through an indomitable talent for pinball. In appropriately kitsch fashion, the film appropriated the costumes used in earlier period dramas, and even wove novelty pound notes into wearable suits.
Less well-known was 'Never Too Young to Rock'. Though ultimately a compendium of hits by Mud and The Glitter Band, this strange dystopian nevertheless expresses the chaotic fun of the period.
The Hanif Kureishi-penned 'My Beautiful Laundrette' celebrates the romance between Daniel Day Lewis' former-skinhead, Johnny and Gordon Warnecke's English-Pakistani entrepreneur, Omar.
'My Beautiful Laundrette''s treatment of race divisions reflects the tension between the UK's burgeoning immigrant population and the repatriation championed by the National Front. The tension culminated in the race riots of 1979 and 1981, in which Asian youth protesters, The National Front and local police violently clashed.
In 1996, Danny Boyle adapted Irvine Welsh's 'Trainspotting', balancing an observational critique of living conditions inside Edinburgh's 'skagboy' culture, with a psychological realism that places the viewer inside the mind of its narrator as he wanders through Scotland's rave scene.
In 1995, Undercurrents documented the anti-M11 protest, where groups of young protesters occupied the roofs of houses and tower blocks in opposition to the M11 extension.
Interestingly, one of the occupied houses was named ‘Munstonia’, after the family from the 1960s TV series, The Munsters. Munstonia - and its counterpart, 'Wanstonia' - was claimed by its settlers as a separate nation, who gave it a national anthem and flag.
Menhaj Huda's 2006 film, 'Kidulthood' was praised for its realistic portrayal of inner-city teenagers and the friction between youth groups, while Andrea Arnold's 'Fishtank' presented a sympathetic and vulnerable protagonist, while acknowledging her determination and resilience in the face of adversity.
Joe Cornish's 2011 comedy-horror 'Attack the Block', meanwhile, uses the sci-fi framework to challenge traditional images of violence and immorality.
Have a Watch
Jubilee, Derek Jarman, 1978
Quadrophenia, Franc Roddam, 1979
This is England, Shane Meadows, 2007
24 Hour Party People, Michael Winterbottom, 2002
Trainspotting, Danny Boyle, 1996
Charlie Nicholson has written about film and other mediums since 2016. A recent graduate of the University of East Anglia, he has written as a critic, researcher and creative writer, and is particularly interested in cult cinema, identity, and the relationship between mainstream and underground cultures.
The Museum of Youth Culture is a new destination dedicated to celebrating 100 years of youth culture history through photographs, ephemera and stories. Launching in 2019, the Online Museum of Youth Culture has been developed by YOUTH CLUB, with support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.