FILM REVIEW | THE WILD ONE
photo manipulation by nacrowe
in my opinion, THE WILD ONE (STANLEY KRAMER PICTURES, 1953) is one of the most consequential films of all time. even up there with CITIZEN KANE (RKO, 1941) in terms of influence.
in many respects this is a result of its content rather than its construction (as was the case with ORSON WELLES' opus still being held in high esteem). the film basically introduced the AMERICAN public to teenage rebellion. in the post-WWII period the economic pursestrings controlled by young adults was sizable for the first time in modern history and HOLLYWOOD took notice. later films like REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE (WARNER BROS, 1955) take their cue from THE WILD ONE, which deals with a clash of two motorcycle gangs in a small town. in many ways it is almost like a WESTERN in its construction, here bikes and leather jackets taking hte place of steeds and leather chaps.
there is also the immortal MARLON BRANDO line "What have you got?" to the question "What are you rebelling against" that is one of the great lines in all of cinema. for me this film is the ground zero of modern youth culture. you can even start with the fact that there is the well-known myth that THE BEATLES got their name from the rival biker gang in the film (a reference to the BEAT WRITERS and BEAT GENERATION). for the record the ALTERNATIVE ROCK band BLACK REBEL MOTORCYCLE CLUB is named after the corresponding BRANDO bike gang in the film.
at some point the legend of the film is divorced from the actual film itself which was low budget with minimal set locations. by standards of the time it is a pretty bare bones production. but where it succeeded it did so brilliantly in exploiting a burgeoning teenage market that was as-of-yet untapped with characters that questioned authority and went against the status quo, creating their own community of like-minded riders that lived by their own code. again, this is straight out of the WESTERN playbook, but being transmogrified in this new context was brilliant. to this day motorcycles, leather jackets and the paraphernalia of the imagery from this film represents rebellion, independence and freedom in AMERICAN popular culture.
the fact that there is no focus to their defiance is a core issue that gets explored to great effect in the aforementioned NICHOLAS RAY film REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE starring JAMES DEAN, but i will leave that to another review.
THE WILD ONE is definitely worth watching if you are a fan of film history or the evolution of AMERICAN popular culture through the generations.