The Wild One (1953)
Reviewed on 2009 September 6
OK, everyone : the next time that someone opines that we Yanks are all a bunch of prudes, you can tease them back. Remind them that this thing was made in 1953, but not released in the UK until the late ’60s, with an X rating, no less. I know that seems crazy now when we can watch something like Robocop or Sin City, but back in the day this was naaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaasty. Now it seems dated, but it’s worth a look just for a young, fine Marlon Brando, even though parts made me snicker a little.
A group of outlaw bikers, the Black Rebels Motorcycle Club, decides to raise hell, roaring into a “square” motorcycle race and acting thuggish just because they can (and because on some level it probably bugs them that these traditional people are having a good time and not nihilistically tearing stuff up). After they’ve ruined things enough to suit them and be a pain in the collective backside of these people, they are thirsty, and roar into a small, dull town like a bunch of leather-clad locusts, searching for beer, gas for their bikes, and more people to annoy. Their leader, Johnny (Brando) doesn’t say much, except for one of the best lines in moviedom when asked what he’s rebelling against. He doesn’t really reign his goons in either, and lets them pretty much tear up the town. About the only thing Johnny seems the least bit interested in protecting is the pretty Kathie Bleeker (Mary Murphy), who herself is tempted to jump on the bike and ride out of Dullsville with Johnny.
I’d have loved to have heard people discussing it when it was released. Almost everything about it seems silly now, except for a few night scenes where the bikers are wrecking the town. Whether you can get past the corniness or not, I think most women can say that Mary Murphy got one of the most enviable bullets to add to her film resume: she got paid to snuggle with Marlon during a moonlit bike ride.
Three chocolate morsels, because it’s iconic, even if time hasn’t been particularly kind to it.