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
MARLON BRANDO rides into town leading a pack of wild motorcycle riders who proceed to terrorize a hick town before LEE MARVIN shows up and gets into a drunken fight with Brando (as Johnny). Meantime, Johnny flirts dangerously with a cop's daughter (MARY MURPHY) who runs a cafe. Her father is played by ROBERT KEITH, a lawman who's reticent about using his authority with a bunch of motorcycle thugs.
Tension builds when Keith manages to haul Lee Marvin off to jail. Brando's buddies manage to get a hold of one of the town bullies and put him in the jail cell with the drunken Marvin who has passed out. They then go on a wild rampage but not before some of the town's men decide to form a vigilante squad and go after Brando. Brando has a brief romantic fling with the girl who realizes loving him is a lost cause.
***** POSSIBLE SPOILER AHEAD ***** The plot moves swiftly to a conclusion once the girl is able to convince the authorities that he wasn't responsible for the death of an elderly bystander hit by a motorcycle.
Stanley Kramer production has a nice, tense background score by Leith Stevens.
Summing up: Early Brando is impressive to watch, but much of the dialog is very dated and anchored firmly in the 1950s by the slang and be-bop expressions and overall concept of the film.
Famous for the moment when a girl taunts him with: "What are you rebelling against?"
Brando's terse reply: "What have you got?"
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