Saturday, November 19, 2011

1968 - Wild in the Streets

Wild in the Streets, American International Pictures (1968)

I was always a big fan of the 1970's science fiction film, Logan's Run, the classic Michael York film about a man on the run from a society that kills you when you turn 30. The films basic premise of the ultimate society of the young excited me as a kid and amuses me as an old man. 1968's Wild in the Streets is a great little trash film, that while not actually connected in any ways to the 70's film, is still, at least in the Wold Newton manner, a prequel to Logan's Run

Produced by the heavy handed and yet brilliant team of Samuel Z Arkoff and James H. Nicholson, for their American International Pictures, and helmed by future Across the 110th Street, director Barry Shear, from a screenplay by Robert Thorn, Wild in the Streets is every 15 year old's wet dream of revolution and every adults ultimate "get the hell, off my lawn" nightmare.With it's bizarre combination of hippie's, revolutionaries, communists and fascism, Wild in the Streets has something in it to both amuse and offend people of all ages.

Max Flatow, played as a boy by future Brady Buncher, Barry Williams, is a typical middle classed American boy who just can't stand his parent's, and really who can blame him, his father is a spineless wimp and his mother is an overbearing shrew played by Shelley Winters. Growing up into former star of television's The Legend of Jessie James, Christopher Jones, Max blows up his father's car and leaves home

Christopher Jones as Max Frost, Wild in the Streets (1968)

A few years later, our burgeoning revolutionary, now known as Max Frost, is the millionaire lead singer of The Trooper's, a rock band with one of the best line-ups of talent this side of the Hong Kong Cavaliers. Their bassets has a hook, but is still a brilliant player, the drummer is a famous black revolutionary, played by a young Richard Pryor, Sally, the pretty girl on keyboards is a former child star turned radical, and the 15 year old lead guitarist is also the bands lawyer.

Richard Pryor in Wild in the Streets (1968)

One night Max's mother sees him playing on television. Recognizing her long missing son, the shallow Mrs. Flatow excited to see that she is related to a star and makes a beeline to one of his concerts and barges her way into Max's life. Shortly afterwards though while driving Max's Rolls with the band in tow, she rolls the car, killing a small child in the process, and enraging Max.who sends her away and tells her to never try to see him again.

Max is very aware that more than 50% of the United States is under 25 years old and he is determined to see the law changed so that 18 year old get the vote. Max becomes involved with the Senate campaign of Johnny Fergus, played in his normal slightly twisted middle class manner by the great Hal Holbrook, who really doesn't actually care to much about what the youth want, but is all in favor of getting their votes.

While playing a concert in support of Fergus, Max doesn't just support Johnny's idea of giving the vote to 18 year old, but instead makes a a speech and then sings a song about giving the vote to 14 year olds instead.

Taken by surprise, but recognizing that the majority is with Max, Johnny makes a deal to support giving the vote to 15 year old instead. Soon enough with Max's support, the Constitution is amended and everyone 15 and older gets the vote.

Not long afterwards, when a congressmen dies, Max's keyboardist, Sally Leroy (Diane Varsi), who is 25 years old and able to run, gets elected to Congress, and her first act is to introduce extremely popular legislation to lower the voting age, as well as the right to run for everything from Congress to the President to 14 years old.

As the youth movement grows and protesters cover Washington, the military kills 14 young people driving Max's youth rebellion into overdrive, which is symbolized by the song The Shape of Things to Come.

As the youth grow in power, people over 30 try to do whatever they can to retain power and stop the juggernaut of Max Frost's movement.But Max and his band spike the Washington DC water supply with LSD turning the entire population on and convincing a totally stoned Congress to pass the change in the Constitution.

Free to run for President, Max runs for President, as the Republican candidate, and easily wins becoming the youngest president in history.

Soon, with youth in power, new laws are passed requiring anyone over 30 to retire and everyone over 35 to be moved to special camps, where they are kept controlled through the use of LSD.

Max's mother is stunned to find herself in a camp and resists, while his father just sit's back and enjoys the trip, and Johnny Fergus hangs himself from a tree.

Hal Holbrook, Wild in the Streets (1968)

Flush in his victory Max is enjoying power but is thrown off when Fergus's 10 year old daughter tells him that he is old. So Max goes off for a few days to get his head together. While walking along a river, he finds a crawfish on a string and after killing it, is confronted by the three young boys,  who had made it a pet.

Max, sneers at the angry boys pointing out that they are too small to do much about it, and leaves. But as he goes one of the boys look at his friends and swears that they are going to put everybody over 10 "Out of business".

Wild in the Streets takes itself a bit too seriously to be great parody, but it still manages to poke not only the older generation with their stuffy, conservative nature, but also the younger generation with their willingness to follow a leader just because he looks good and can sing.

Shelley Winter's and Hal Holbrook both do a fine job of chewing the scenery as people who fool themselves into believing they can ride the movement, but who have another thing coming.And as Max, Christopher Jones does an excellent job of playing someone who is equal parts James Dean, Jim Morrison and Adolf Hitler.

It's not hard to see the society emerging at the end of Wild in the Street evolving over time to the domed cities of Logan's Run, although from the looks of things, just maybe the folks in the 20's had better look out.

From our pals at YouTube, here's the entire movie in one clip.

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