We ended at the start.
Last night we closed out this season's "Shitty Biker Movie Night" with the original biker film that spawned a whole sub-genre over a decade later. Marlon Brando is unforgettable in The Wild One. The movie is excellent and worth watching over and over.
The film is a great snapshot of post-war America. This new breed of rebels find a nomadic home on their motorcycles and America recoils in knee-jerk fright. They wander from town to town, their legend grows, and misinformation and rumors run amok. The tone of the townspeople and the tone of the film adds to the sensationalism surrounding the bikers. No one knows what to make of them. And they're pitched as a generation that doesn't know what to make of themselves, either. Brando is brothers-in-arms with Dean in Rebel Without a Cause (which is a brilliant film). Two sides of the same coin. One on two wheels and the other on four.
Brando aka Johnny, and his gang (the Black Rebels Motorcycle Club) set the tone for biker fashion. Pretty much anything Brando did back then set the tone for masculine fashion, regardless of your preferred mode of transport. They look amazing as they roar towards the camera in the opening scene. Black leather-clad mob 30 strong on a killer round up of period bikes. Mostly British. Mostly Triumphs. But looked like a Matchless or AJS snuck in for good measure.
There's some crappy effects going on that don't really make any sense. They have all these great riding shots and I didn't see the need to pepper them with hokey rear-screen projection shots. They had enough footage to keep it all legit. But no matter. It's a product of 1953 after all. Lee Marvin puts on a great performance as the leader of the opposing gang. It can't go without saying. Terrific actor.
The music is great. It's pretty much an all jazz score. The patter is brilliant. It's hepcat jive dropping jazz on your mind, daddy-o. The film does its best to generalize, commercialize, and stereotype the American counter-culture of the time. Which is fine by me cuz it's clearly the coolest fucking counter-culture there ever was. Coltrane, great style, and Triumphs.
"What're you rebelling against, Johnny?"