WILD IN THE STREETS
(directed by Barry Shear, 1968)
***** (out of 5)
So bad… it’s great!
> This mostly forgotten exploitation flick was a very seminal film for me, during my formative years as a budding hippie. It’s been in my “saved” Netflix queue for years now, because the film is no longer available on DVD, but I managed to find a place to stream it digitally and give it a second look, and I found it both better and worse than I remembered.
. WILD IN THE STREETS is a rock musical that takes the “don’t trust anyone over 30” maxim of the 60’s and extrapolates it to its entertaining extreme. In a strong performance that is uncannily reminiscent of James Dean, brooding Christopher Jones plays Max Flatlow- an alienated young rebel who grows up to be a major rock star with charisma to burn. (Folk singer Phil Ochs turned down the part after reading the script and deciding it not not favorably reflect the youth movement of its time.) Savvy politician Hal Holbrook tries to use Max’s celebrity status to further his political career, but things backfire terribly, when Max becomes a major spokesperson for the disenfranchised, coming out for a constitutional amendment to give 14 year olds the vote. Improbably, he succeeds and eventually becomes President himself, passing a law that makes 30 the mandatory retirement age, and further banishes anyone over 35 to “reeducation camps” where they are force-fed a diet of LSD to keep them docile. I well-remembered how much fun it was to watch Shelley Winters primp and preen as his completely self-absorbed mother, totally obsessed with her new celebrity status. (An unforgettable moment: Ms. Winters, whacked out on psychedelics, climbing the barbed-wire in her diaphanous prison gown singing “God Bless America” as she is ruthlessly gunned down by the guards!) Mainstream character actor Ed Begley is perfect as a flummoxed right wing senator trying to come to grips with the new cultural zeitgiest. There are even cameos by Dick Clark and Bobby Sherman. But I had completely forgotten that Richard Pryor was the drummer in Max’s band! (He reportedly showed up completely nude at one shoot, just to freak Shelley Winters out! By all accounts, it worked.)
. We had the LP of the soundtrack record at home, (a real collector’s item now!) so it was surprising how little I remembered the mostly unremarkable songs- with the exception of “14 or Fight” and particularly: “The Shape of Things to Come”, a really well-written rock anthem that got some airplay at the time, rising to number 22 on the charts. The best surprise on second look: though unquestionably a “B-movie” some of the dialogue had shockingly precient political content, with sharply-focused rhetoric attacking the old guard, capitalism and consumerism, the cult of personality, the war machine and a process that shuts many people out, and leaves them without a voice or a say in decisions that are made in their name.
. So what happens when President Fatow turns 30 himself?
> If you have streaming Nexflix- check out this wildly fun cultural satire. What a time machine it is!
© Kevin Paul Keelan and lastcre8iveiconoclast, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kevin Paul Keelan and lastcre8iveiconoclast with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.