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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 Marlon Brando and his Black Rebels, but the association served them well. See more »
When Johnny knocks Chino through the window of the clothing shop it is obvious that there is no glass in the window, only balsa wood mullions (i.e. the bars between panes of a multi-pane window). See more »
Well, what d'ya do? I mean, do you just ride around or do you go on some sort of a picnic or something?
A picnic? Man, you are too square. I'm... I... I'll have to straighten you out. Now, listen, you don't go any one special place. That's cornball style. You just go.
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Strong performances in an original take on a persistent theme
An early Brando vehicle, The Wild One has the air of a local genre for the postwar American youth, determined to strike out and be different from the previous generation - despite little idea of what the alternative is. Of course, there is no real genre at work in this sort of movie but the rise of the youthful celebrity typified by Brando and the obvious climate for generational schism brought by the end of the war specifically midwived films such as this.
Brando is very watchable - I particularly like an early sequence, where, despite his determination to defy any expectation, he gets trapped into following a bargirl (Mary Murphy) around like a puppy. His aimlessness is well calibrated, offset with the defining line of the movie: 'What are you rebelling against?' asks a local. 'What have you got?' ripostes Brando's Johnny.
Also popping up on screen is a necessarily over the top Lee Marvin as an amigo/antagonist counterpart to Johnny and a brilliantly ineffectual yet despondently wise town Sheriff, given by Robert Keith. He alone sees the ever-turning circle of young growing up but is rendered powerless by the very circumstance that gives this study in the unassuming, self-education of youth its ring of temporal genre. With equally committed performances across the rest of the ensemble, the film becomes more than a document though. 6/10
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