In the Salinas Valley, in and around World War I, Cal Trask feels he must compete against overwhelming odds with his brother Aron for the love of their father Adam. Cal is frustrated at ... See full summary »
Brick, an alcoholic ex-football player, drinks his days away and resists the affections of his wife, Maggie. His reunion with his father, Big Daddy, who is dying of cancer, jogs a host of memories and revelations for both father and son.
Cop-hating Johnny Strabler is recounting the fateful events that led up to the "whole mess" as he calls it, his role in the mess and whether he could have stopped it from happening. The Black Rebels, a motorcycle gang of which Johnny is the leader, cause a ruckus using intimidation wherever they go, with their actions bordering on the unlawful. On the day of the mess, they invade a motorcycle racing event, at which they cause a general disturbance culminating with one of the gang members stealing a second place trophy to give to Johnny. Despite not being the larger winning trophy, it symbolizes to Johnny his leadership within the group. Their next stop is a small town where their disturbance and intimidation tactics continue. Some in town don't mind their arrival as long as they spend money. Harry Bleeker, the local sheriff, doesn't much like them but is so ineffective and weak that he doesn't do anything to stop them, much to the annoyance of some of the other townsfolk, who see the ... Written by
This was the first film in which the manufacturer's logo on motorcycles was not blanked out. Johnson Motors, who imported Triumphs into the USA, protested at their product being linked with Brando and his Black Rebels, but the association served them well. See more »
Gil Stratton Jr's motorcycle changes from a Triumph from when he leaves the races to a Matchless when he arrives in Wrightsville. See more »
[as Charlie and other townsmen beat him up]
My old man used to hit harder than that.
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Brando is his archetypal mean and moody self, as the original rebel on a motorcycle terrorising smalltown America. The enduring iconic images from the film have weathered better than the film itself, however, but it still stands up as a paean to disaffected youth.
When Johnny and the boys ride into town all hell breaks loose, with a culture clash between themselves and the 'squares', resulting in tragedy and some reconciliation. These boys look tame compared to today's standards (they even pay for their own beer!) but they don't fit in and so are immediately ostracised by a grown-up world that doesn't understand their jive-talking, anti-social behaviour. Johnny's reply when asked, "What are you rebelling against?" says it all..."Whatta you got?", with a sneer for good measure.
Time hasn't been kind to the film, and it's hard to see why it was banned in the UK for 18 years (mainly down to the lack of any retribution for the gang), but there is still a tight story and strong characterisation. It's a pity the film descends needlessly into melodrama, losing much of it's credibility in the process.
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