That young, meaty, leather-clad buck that was Marlon Brando in The Wild One is enough to arouse even the most dormant of feelings in even the straightest of men. And what he does for the women.....damn!
Playing the rebellious Johnny, born leader of the Black Rebels Motorcycle Club (ie. biker gang, and unapologetically so) in the Stanley Kramer produced 1953 film that had all of the newly christened Eisenhower America in varying stages of angst, fear and titillation, Brando was pure sex. Perhaps it was a supposedly incognito kind of sex - the kind meant to stay just out of the always-prying eyes of the Hollywood censors and their self-righteous moral crusade - but there is no denying that every sweaty, dirty, filthy part of this movie is pure and unadulterated sex. From the revving sex machines roaring loudly from between the legs of these bikers to the sneering anti-establishment growl of Brando's Johnny to the shiny phallic trophy that Johnny so wants to give to the sheriff's good little girl to that very same good little girl's lusting desire to be something not-so-good to rival gang leader Lee Marvin's beat-generation destruction of small town morals. The movie is so filled with sex and sexual innuendo that you can almost smell it's stank wafting from the screen.
At one point Johnny is asked what he is rebelling against, and he responds with a lackadaisical yet cocksure, "whatchya got?" And that is exactly what the movie itself is doing - railing against the conformity of middle America and the complacency of the nineteen-fifties. Sure, it may seem a bit heavy-handed at times, while seeming quite silly at others, and it may very well have a rather immature idea about rebellion (the creative forces behind the writing, directing and producing of the film were well past the age of typical teen rebellion at the time - Kramer being the youngest at 39), and the film may seem to many an untrained eye to be quite outdated these days, but there is no doubt that the rebellion, no matter how sophomoric it may seem, is there throughout the movie - permeating its very pores - and first and foremost amongst that rebellion is sex sex and sex.
Banned in the UK until 1968 (supposedly they were not sure exactly why they were banning it, just that they knew something was not right) and given an X rating when it finally was allowed to be shown, and thought of as subversive here in the states as well (our youth are running wild!!) the film still holds up (damn those who call it outdated!!) and Brando can still make all those deep-seeded feelings - the ones no one wants to talk about in public - come rushing up to the surface (and beyond!). And while Brando plays the stoic bad boy that all the girls are as much afraid of as they are aroused by, (he takes what he wants!) Marvin plays Chino, the brash wild child that is a ticking time bomb of a character (and the head of The Beetles biker gang - a name that possibly, but never proven, would go on to inspire and name another rather famous group of rebellious troublemakers). These two opposing forces, these two sides of sexual power as it were, clash in what can only be meant as metaphor.
Perhaps in the end, as the cavalry as it were, rushes in and sends the two gangs packing, the so-called establishment wins, but The Wild One is as much a damnation of the typical fifties way of life as it is of the sexually provocative youth rebelling against whatever you got. With the small town's lynch mob mentality and Robert Keith's portrayal of the outmoded and ineffectual lawman, even though they "win" and the rebellion is quashed, it is the bikers, and their wanton carnality, that remain in our subconscious and in our dreams. It is Brando's animalistic, yet strangely calming, glare that will forever be remembered. In all, to end on a pun, it is a triumph of a movie. Get it, they ride Triumph motorcycles. Seriously though, the film is pure pure sex and that is what makes it so hot hot hot.
*This article was inspired by the lovely and talented Kim Morgan. Miss Morgan's look at The Wild One a few weeks back (at her always entertaining and just as always informative blog Sunset Gun), inspired me to immediately purchase the DVD from Amazon and, having never seen it before (I know, fucking blasphemy!!), play it on the big screen of Midtown Cinema (the arthouse cinema my wife and I run in Harrisburg PA for those uninitiated among you). Obviously it made quite the impression on me, and for that, I would like to thank you Miss Morgan for all that you have done. And please excuse me for using the same still as you (the last one) but c'mon, you can't talk about the overt sexuality of The Wild One and NOT have that picture included.