Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Wild Ride

JM Dobies here, presenting the BLOG! Movie of the Week. This time out, our long-forgotten feature is THE WILD RIDE from 1960, written and directed by Harvey Berman for Roger Corman's FilmGroup. The film stars a young Jack Nicholson as arrogant punk Johnny Varron, a teenage tough guy who's got a problem with authority figures. He deals with this deep-seated authority problem by driving way too fast in his souped-up hot rod, running motorcycle cops off the road, just for kicks.

He is, to use his own phrase, a "real far-out stud." He runs his gang ruthlessly as "top man," telling his underlings what to do and who to date. When his best friend Dave goes soft over a new chick, Johnny tells him to drop her, because "She's out...She doesn't fit."

Of course, thanks to his obsessive, control-freak ways, Johnny engineers his own downfall, and all because of this one square chick. If only Dave had listened...

If you think you've seen this film before, but you remember it being in color, you're probably right. There was a computer-colorized home video version retitled VELOCITY released in the 1980s. In an attempt to sucker the viewer into thinking it was a more recent Jack Nicholson picture, new scenes were added as a framing device, with some guy who looked and sounded nothing like Jack playing his character as an old man, telling his story to an '80s street punk with bad hair. Needless to say, it didn't work, and you're better off with the original.

Jack Nicholson has come to be known as one of our finest actors, but few would have predicted that at the time he made this movin' picture. He'd made only one film prior to THE WILD RIDE, 1958's THE CRY BABY KILLER, where he played another young punk with a taste for killing. He appeared in two other films in 1960, TOO SOON TO LOVE, where he again played a troubled teen coping with his chick's unplanned pregnancy, and most famously, a fine comic performance in the original LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS, as squeaky-voiced masochist Wilbur Force, who gets off on getting his teeth drilled full of holes at the dentist's.

For Nicholson fans, it's fascinating to watch the young Jack show flashes of his future persona, and certainly a much better way to waste your time than renting THE BUCKET LIST.

Anyway, if you dig fast cars, crazy chicks, and cool hipster slang, this flick is for you. The dialogue is priceless, and while there's not much of a plot, the whole thing's over in less than an hour.

Available on DVD from Alpha Home Video and BCI/Eclipse, while VELOCITY, the colorized, augmented version is available from Concorde and is to be avoided at all costs.

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