Newest Review: ... Jungle, referred to above, and East Of Eden). The Wild One doesn't transmit well over to DVD from a technological aspect. Although the p... more
Iconic 1950s teen rebellion
The Wild One (DVD)
Member Name: GentleGenius
The Wild One (DVD)
Advantages: Fairly good acting from Brando and very good acting from Lee Marvin, a cult classic
Disadvantages: Quite boring in parts, not as good as it's cracked up to be, weak storyline
RELEASED: 1953, Cert. PG
RUNNING TIME: Approx. 79 mins
DIRECTOR: Laslo Benedek
PRODUCER: Stanley Kramer
SCREENPLAY: John Paxton
MUSIC: Leith Stevens
Marlon Brando as Johnny Strabler
Mary Murphy as Kathie Bleeker
Robert Keith as Chief Harry Bleeker
Lee Marvin as Chino
FILM ONLY REVIEW
Johnny Strabler is the leader of a gang of bikers, nicknamed the Black Rebels. The Black Rebels look for trouble wherever they go, and after causing a disruption at a motorcycling event and stealing a trophy, they move on to a nearby small town.
Once at the town and after having upset a few people yet fascinated and amused a few others, Johnny's eyes rest on Kathie Bleeker who works at her brother's café. Shy of Johnny yet strangely attracted to him, Kathie holds back a little from becoming involved, especially when The Black Rebels' rivals, The Beetles, roar into the town and a state of gang warfare is then underway.
To see how Kathie does or doesn't cope with Johnny's overtures towards her and whether he and his gang can keep out of trouble, you must see the film for yourself.
Shot in black and white, The Wild One is one of those early American films which during the 1950s, began to deal with the topic of youth rebellion. The opening credits display what would nowadays be considered a ridiculous warning to society which expresses concern about the rocky path some teenagers choose to travel down, then we have a little narration by Marlon Brando as Johnny, reflecting on life in general and how disillusioned he is.
The film then opens with a crew of leather-clad youths on motorbikes, hogging the road, on the hunt for new adventures before stumbling upon the rally where they cause havoc.
The Wild One is an iconic film which has become an all-time classic, casting a very young Marlon Brando in the lead role. In the part of Johnny, Brando is mean, moody and snarls rather a lot, together with his demeanour bordering upon the taciturn bad guy image. Somewhat of an outsider, Johnny even at times seems to be a loner within The Black Rebels, despite him being their leader.
Brando's acting is reasonable in The Wild One, but I do feel it is somewhat overrated. Perhaps for the time the film was released it was a cinematic breakthrough, but despite having seen it several times in my life, I've never been overly impressed with Brando's performance. It would be unfair of me to say that it is bad, because it isn't, but it I feel is far less sparkling than the general consensus of opinion declares. The rest of the cast members are OK but not brilliant, and the acting overall is very much in that slightly over the top, barked out speaking style typical of that era. My favourite cast member is Lee Marvin as the amusingly anarchic Chino, leader of The Beetles opposition gang. His performance is quite polished, creating a strangely likeable character, who is rather endearing, even if not very nice at heart.
The music to The Wild One is pretty typical of those gritty American productions from the 1950s (such as The Man With The Golden Arm and Blackboard Jungle), being a mixture of overbearing, highly orchestrated pieces, mingled with bebop style jazz that is a little dirty and bluesy around the edges. The orchestrated part of the score is far too in your face, but the jazzy offerings are far more conducive to the storyline.
I personally find the story of The Wild One to be quite weak, and although it is reasonably watchable as a film and has gone down as a cult classic, I do feel overall it is very overrated, as for me there are much better movies around on a similar topic (such as Blackboard Jungle, referred to above, and East Of Eden).
The Wild One doesn't transmit well over to DVD from a technological aspect. Although the picture and dialogue are still reasonably clear, the transference has caused a slight distortion whereby it occasionally looks as though there are little squares infesting the screen. I did wonder if I'd managed to pick up a duff DVD copy, but three other people I know who own this film have noticed the same issues.
The Wild One, even with my reservations and feelings about it being overrated, still nonetheless is an important stepping stone in cinematic history, whereby it takes a slightly controversial topic (youth rebellion) and builds a story out of it. At the time of its release, this film would have been quite...not shocking exactly, but different, and I can imagine Mom's apple-pie type Americans would have considered it to be a bad influence upon their squeaky clean offspring. By today's standards, the aggression shown by the two rival biker gangs and the resulting violence is almost laughably tame, but maybe that isn't a bad thing, because I do feel that over the decades, perhaps on-screen blood and guts has evolved into something that truly could be a bad influence on impressionable minds, and there is the issue that a lot of it is done simply for effect and to shock. I don't think The Wild One set out to deliberately jar anybody's sensibilities as such though....more I feel it was attempting to make a social statement which was probably far more applicable to the early 1950s than it is for today.
Despite me not being so keen on The Wild One as most other fans of 1950s gritty dramas, I still feel it is a film worth owning and watching, purely for its historical value and I reckon that everybody should see it, even if just once.
In summary, The Wild One is OK-ish yet for me not all that it has been cracked up to be, but I would nonetheless recommend it as a film to earmark, simply because of its cult status and in 1953, being somewhat of a breakthrough.
At the time of writing, The Wild One can be purchased from Amazon as follows:-
New: from £3.09 to £39.99
Used: only two copies currently available @ £3.08 and £5.30
Some items on Amazon are available for free delivery within the UK, but where this doesn't apply, a £1.26 charge should be added to the above figures.
Thanks for reading!
~~ Also published on Ciao under my CelticSoulSister user name ~~
Summary: It's OK, but there are better films around on the same topic