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László Benedek
Marlon Brando, Mary Murphy, Robert Keith, Lee Marvin, Jay C. Flippen, Peggy Maley, Hugh Sanders, Ray Teal
Writing Credits:
John Paxton, Frank Rooney (novel, "The Cyclists' Raid")

Marlon Brando! Driven Too Far By His Own Hot Blood!

In one of his most famous roles, Brando stars as the head of a savage motorcycle gang which terrorizes a small town. He gets his first real chance at a normal and productive life when he falls in love with a young woman who lives there, but a psychotic rival to his position as leader threatens everything.

Rated NR

Widescreen 1.33:1
English Monaural
French Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 79 min.
Price: $59.95
Release Date: 2/12/2008

Available Only as Part of “The Stanley Kramer Film Collection”
• Audio Commentary with Author/Film Historian Jeanine Basinger
• Introduction from Karen Kramer
• “Hollister California: Bikers, Booze and the Big Picture” Featurette
• “Brando: An Icon Is Born” Featurette


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Harman/Kardon DPR 2005 7.1 Channel Receiver; Toshiba A-30 HD-DVD/1080p Upconverting DVD Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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The Wild One: Stanley Kramer Film Collection (1953)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 29, 2008)

One of Marlon Brando’s breakout performances comes to us via 1953’s The Wild One. He plays Johnny, the leader of a biker gang called the “Black Rebels Motorcycle Club” that comes to a small town in California. When some of the guys drag race down Main Street, Crazy (Gene Peterson) gets injured. That will lay him up for a couple of days, so Johnny decrees that the gang should stay in town to wait for him.

That’s fine for the bikers but not so good for the locals. Scores of ne’er-do-wells in town for two days with nothing to do becomes a recipe for trouble, thought matters stay calm at first. In fact, when the bikers get Crazy out of the hospital, Johnny plans to take them out of town, but the rival Beetles gang arrives in the meantime. Johnny gets in a fight with their leader Chino (Lee Marvin) and matters deteriorate from there. The movie follows subsequent events.

Am I the only one who watches Wild One and wishes that society was still innocent enough to make characters like the BRMC boys seem like serious threats? No, I don’t long for the repression and stiffness of the 1950s, but the criminal element has “evolved” to such a degree over the last 55 years that the bikers seen here appear quaint at best. No, I suppose I wouldn’t want to be stuck in a small town with them, but they rarely exhibit any real sense of danger.

Except for Johnny, that is. While his peers look goofy much of the time, Brando gives the lead a sense of real menace. He does this in a quietly brooding manner that makes him all the more effective. Brando’s Johnny isn’t given to big shows of aggression. Instead, he makes his stature known in a subtle way that ensures his performance becomes all the more impressive. Johnny feels more like an archetype than a real person, but I can see why the role helped turned Brando into an icon.

Though not as lauded, I felt just as impressed with Marvin’s work as Chino. Marvin actually provides the more natural performance of the pair. He’s one of the few characters here who actually comes across like a believable human being and who could exist in the present day. Granted, Chino never seems especially threatening, but he does appear human and convincing. That’s a notable accomplishment in a film filled with cartoon characters.

Without Brando’s performance, would we remember The Wild One five and a half decades later? Probably not. The movie provides a reasonably engaging story but it really suffers from the dated nature of the whole thing. Like I mentioned, the “outlaws” don’t seem particularly scary or threatening, so the quaintness factor goes through the roof.

I still find enough to like here to make The Wild One an entertaining experience. Without the fine work from Brando and Marvin, the film would likely become a dated dud. Since they provide strong performances, though, the flick rises above its source problems and keeps our attention.

The DVD Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B/ Bonus B-

The Wild One appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The movie only sporadically showed its age via this fine transfer.

Very few issues with sharpness materialized. A few slightly soft shots cropped up along the way, but most of the flick seemed distinctive and concise. No problems with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and edge enhancement remained minimal.

In addition, source flaws stayed modest. I noticed a few small specks, but that was about it. The vast majority of the movie looked clean and fresh. Blacks were deep and tight, while low-light shots demonstrated nice clarity and delineation. This became a very satisfying presentation.

I also thought that the monaural soundtrack of The Wild One held up well. Speech could be slightly stiff, but the lines always remained easily intelligible, and they usually displayed adequate clarity. Music was a bit on the tinny side, but not terribly so. Though the score didn’t show great range, it seemed perfectly fine for material from a 55-year-old flick. Effects also displayed reasonably good definition. Nothing here excelled, but it all appeared positive given its age.

A smattering of supplements rounds out the package. First comes an audio commentary from author/film historian Jeanine Basinger. She provides a running, screen-specific chat that looks at the flick’s origins and development, story issues and changes made due to the Production Code, cast and crew, the movie’s cultural impact, and some interpretation of the tale.

Though the commentary starts slowly, Basinger soon gets better involved in the film. She manages to cover the relevant aspects of the production as well as issues connected to the era and the movie’s social importance. After that pokey beginning, we find a fine discussion of the flick.

An Introduction from Karen Kramer provides some notes from the producer’s widow. In this 82-second clip, she discusses the real-life inspiration for Wild One and its impact. Kramer fails to tell us much, but she offers a decent opening.

Two featurettes follow. Hollister California: Bikers, Booze and the Big Picture runs 27 minutes, 50 seconds as it looks at the real-life incident that influenced the movie’s story. We meet Hollister CA residents Robert Scattini, Dotti Mae Howell, Clifford A. Cardoza, Catherine Dabo, Dave Grimsley, Joe Bravo, Johnny Lomanto, Al Butruni, Brad Pike, Gordon Machado, Jess Bravo, Charisse Tyson, Gus Deserpa and Christy Howe as well as “Top Hatters” bike organization vice-president Marcello “Shorty” Orta, Booze Fighters Motorcycle Club International Vice President Carl “Big Daddy” Spots, BFMC National Historian Jim “JQ” Quattlebaum, BFMC Charter Holder Brian “Snowman” Truman, Top Hatters – Hollister president Frank “Kiko” Sanches, BFMC National Press and Publicity Officer Bill Hayes, biker event organizer/promoter Seth Doulton, and Bike Lust author Barbara Joans.

“Picture” looks at the nature of Hollister, the history of biking groups in the area, and the “biker invasion” of 1947 that inspired The Wild One. It gives us a good view of the facts involved in the real setting and allows us to learn a little about the way the movie adapts these elements. “Picture” drags a little at times, but it usually proves satisfying and interesting.

Brando: An Icon Is Born goes for 18 minutes, 37 seconds as it presents notes from Karen Kramer, filmmakers Taylor Hackford, Dennis Hopper, and Garry Marshall, actor Elizabeth Ashley, and producer Stanley Kramer from 1978. “Icon” offers a few tidbits about the film’s creation, but it mostly acts as an appreciation for the flick with an emphasis on Brando’s performance and the movie’s legacy. It gets a little gushy at times, but it adds some decent insights connected to The Wild One.

Though it really shows its age at times, The Wild One has enough going for it to make it worthwhile. In particular, excellent performances from Marlon Brando and Lee Marvin keep our attention. The DVD presents very good picture, perfectly solid audio and a few useful extras. This release represents its movie well.

Note that you can buy this version of Wild One as part of a five-movie set called “The Stanley Kramer Film Collection”. That release retails for $59.95 and also includes Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, Ship of Fools, The 5000 Fingers of Dr. T and The Member of the Wedding.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.5 Stars Number of Votes: 4
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