The Wild One (1953) Blu-ray Review

Director: Laszlo Benedek | 79 minutes | Indicator | On sale 22nd May

A gang of motorcyclists, led by rebellious Johnny (Marlon Brando), ride into a small California town and terrorise the inhabitants. Johnny falls for the local cop’s daughter (Mary Murphy), but a rival in his gang (Lee Marvin) and the hostility of the townspeople create too many tensions for anything but a violent climax.

Time for another non-horror (gulp) review on Infernal Cinema…

A film that helped shape a generation and continues to make an impact on new viewers that discover it, The Wild One is as iconic as a film to be released so far by the still relatively new label Indicator.

Hundreds of thousands of words have been written about this movie in the decades since it’s debut and this high def remaster will add to that. While unfortunately the transfer and restoration aren’t as strong as other releases from Indicator, it is still a worthy effort that will be appreciated by those that adore The Wild One.

The movie has one era defining performance, that being Marlon Brando as Johnny Strabler. While it is a good piece of acting from Brando, it is perhaps the image and attire of Strabler that has made the role so iconic. A look that has been seen countless times in cinema, television, music and fashion this is something that has influenced so much of 20th century Western culture. Perhaps one of the most well known rip off’s/borrowings of the Strabler character would be that of Henry Winkler as The Fonz in Happy Days. Acting and image wise, Brandon became integral to the lives of so many men after this, intentional or otherwise.

In some ways, however, the movie hasn’t aged well. To think riding motorbikes and rabble-rousing was a serious threat to society and ‘grown ups’ back in the early fifties compared to what the youth of today are capable of now is a little frivolous. Of course this is based, for the most part, on fact so the ‘perils’ of this lifestyle was very real in the fifties. Several decades later some of the bikers behaviour seems tame in comparison to what has happened since. 

The director, Laszlo Benedek, undoubtedly scored a hit here, although he would spend most of career directing television after The Wild One

The disc has some extras from previous releases of this title although that are some new special features. An example is the 2007 documentary Hollister, California (27 mins), this covers the real life inspiration from a 1947 motorbike rally, which has since became known as ‘The Hollister Riot’. The fear of teens and bikes was very real after that incident. There is a new, rewarding extra about the BBFC and it’s past censorship of The Wild One, including a 14 year ban (ah, the good ol’ BBFC).

There is a booklet, too, rich with images on and off set. The booklet includes an essay by Kat Ellinger that details the film speaking to a disenfranchised youth and how the film does seem tame by today’s standards. There’s also an extract from the autobiography of Leslie Halliwell, that recounts Hallwell’s ‘part’ in the history of The Wild One plus a 1955 interview with Benedek (who, no doubt with tongue-in-cheek, calls the BBFC “guardians of the British way of life”).

Limited to 3000 copies, the demand on this one will probably see this title sell out quickly.

Order here.