‘The Wild One’

Judged by the standards and norms of 2021, it’s hard to believe the controversy surrounding the release of The Wild One almost 70 years ago.

Cop-hating Johnny Strabler (Marlon Brando – A Streetcar Named Desire, The Godfather) heads the biker gang The Black Rebels as they head into a small Californian town. Hi-jinx aplenty follow when the beers flow and the juke-box is turned up loud. But things get out of hand when Johnny, with eyes for the local sheriff’s daughter (Mary Murphy – The Desperate Hours, Harlow), confronts the head of the rival Beetles gang, Chino (Lee Marvin – Cat Ballou, The Dirty Dozen), in a street brawl.

It all seems remarkably restrained, with the controversy likely relating to the real events upon which the film is based rather than the film itself. Yet The Wild One, directed by László Benedek (Death of a Salesman, The Night Visitor), remained banned in the UK until the end of the 1960s. An early Brando film, it’s not even that good – coming across as something of a ‘B’ film. But, the gun-chewing, leather-jacketed antihero Johnny Strabler provided Brando with the image of the tough guy rebel of Hollywood.

Rating: 54%


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