Powerhouse Films brings us another cult classic as Marlon Brando’s The Wild One, known as the original outlaw biker film, arrives on UK Blu-ray. Martin Carr takes a closer look…
Not released in Britain until the late Sixties due to censorship issues The Wild One gave us Marlon Brando in his prime. The embodiment of an acting epiphany for those who followed him, this simple biker gang narrative remains riveting if only for that central performance. Using a combination of location work, studio lots and back projection, The Wild One may seem dated in terms of dialogue, musical tastes and certain technical aspects but elsewhere it remains timeless.
In virtually every scene Brando’s Johnny conveys presence without pretence. Lee Marvin who represents the leader of a rival gang grandstands, shouts and hollers but never comes close to matching him. There is an innate belligerence in his silences and steely self-assurance. This is an actor at one with his environment and sitting firmly atop his game. From the first challenge of authority at that bike rally through until Johnny disappears out of town Brando transcends the limitations of this genre.
Reasons for its late release revolved around recurring juvenile delinquency from fifty four through until sixty eight. It was a problem more overtly troubling films also suffered from including A Clockwork Orange, although director Stanley Kubrick was responsible for withdrawing that one, not the BBFC. However these concerns saw The Wild One shelved for fifteen years, denying an audience exposure to a great screen actor.
Because of that The Wild One and its spiritual companion piece A Streetcar Named Desire should be watched, appreciated and studied by anyone with more than a passing interest. This reviewer had never seen the seminal Brando classic and only afterwards can I appreciate why people continue to lavish praise upon him. His was the model everyone followed and many still do when it comes to film acting. Preparation for Brando happened continually. His skill in working a scene, pushing fellow actors and grounding the character within their situation is best studied here. Taylor Hackford, acclaimed film director, says in the accompanying special feature piece that Brando showed for the first time it was alright for leading men to show darkness, anger and backbone.
Outside of the studio constraints of this biker picture exists a performance it is essential to own, if only to remember a great actor before he drifted into caricature. Supremely talented, in possession of seemingly limitless potential and capable of exploiting a range the like of which we may never see again. This is one for the film aficionado and rookie collector alike. But unwrap it, watch it and don’t leave it gathering dust as a coffee table talking point. Brando deserves better treatment.
Written by Martin Carr
Directed by: László Benedek
Written by: John Paxton, Ben Maddow
Starring: Marlon Brando, Mary Murphy, Robert Keith
Released: 1953 / Genre: Drama
Country: USA / IMDB
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The Wild One is released on Blu-ray by Powerhouse Films on May 22 2017