Friday, 3 February 2012

Wild In The Streets (1968)

If you like these cheap genre flicks American International Pictures were doing in the 50’s and 60’s, but you never saw "Wild In The Streets", there goes the nugget! If you are into obscure movies, but not necessarily into hippiesploitation or drugsploitation, that might be hard rock for you as what your really get here are countercultural myths, dreams and slogans of the high sixties wildly mingled together – they’re certainly exploits, but a way of serving them is much different from one to which you got used to watching let's say beach movies… in different words Barry Shear kicked it up a notch very significantly and got us plenty of fun!

"Wild In The Streets" was one of the most revolutionary movies of it’s times (or at least I like to think that way) for couple of reasons. First of all, the budget hit $1 mln, which was very unusual for a 60’s drive-in picture. Second thing is that it got an actual 1969 Oscar nomination… for editing. "Big deal" you say, but Corman’s or Meyer’s movies never got one. Third thing is the message of the movie - socially subversive, even if screenplay dips it a bit in a fantasy realm. "The old has to die!" Who came across with it in a mainstream movie before? We have a lot of experimantal, occult movies trying to show the agenda of social and spiritual transformation like Kenneth Anger’s shorts, but there were no really Derek Jarman’s all front dystopia themes at that point and Godard was just starting to develop his socially critic, surreal formula on a totally different level. Besides everything I still love the fact that it’s basically about drugs and music fighting the good ole boys’ politics.

We are thrown into the world of a fifteen year old Max Flatlow, who’s becoming exhausted by his family void (his mother is played by Shelley Winters) and petty bourgeoisie habits. He is a genius though as by synthesizing LSD in his basement, he finally gains something worth monetizing and the cash goes straight for a purchase of a dynamite, used immediately to blow up his father’s car in an emotional act of teenage rebellion. Max is free to escape at last! Nine years pass and Max Flatlow changes his surname to Frost – in the meantime he became a rock’n’roll superstar and first American millionaire at the age of 19. He lives in a big villa in Beverly Hills together with his band The Troopers, who are his closest friends.

Among them there are: Sally Leroy – former children movie star and a nudist; Abraham Salteen – Max’s lover, vegetarian and acid head; Billy Cage – fifteen year old lawyer, accountant, the youngest Yale gradute in history. There are also Fuji Ellie – Japanese stenotypist, a great concubine and Stanley X (young Richard Pryor) – cultural anthropologist, author of a bestseller: "The Aborigine Cook Book". They get along pretty well practically living as a commune. Most of the time they roll joints planning to take over America with the help of their great popularity. They are not just fairy dreams as more than 50% of American population has less than 25 years and the young are definitely ready to blow up!

To make a long story short, Max gets into the politics by supporting a senatorial campaign of John Fergusson from California. He promises him to pass a right to vote fo everyody over 18 years old in return. Max goes for it, but decides to play his own game suddenly coming up with a much more radical proposition to grant it to everybody with 14 years finished. He promotes his agenda with a new song "14 Or Fight" and gets America into mass hysteria. John Fergusson plays along and they make a deal settling on 15 instead, but although he wins elections, he doesn’t want to keep his word.

Max puts up Sally as his own candidate for Congress and she wins by a landslide. They try to push the act together, but they cannot get the political support, therefore they decide to come up with a nasty plan – pour a jar of LSD into the Washington water supplies, which lets them set children advisers for every congressman, who just raise their hands as the act is being voted down. A parliamentary revolution follows with Max chosen as a president. America is turned upside down with LSD camps for poor farts, who just turned 35 – they have to experience a new life as reborn acid heads after being loaded up with heavy psychedelic doses… it’s obligatory, no excuses! As all acid dreams come through, social reality finally achieves it’s superior order… but there’s still a change waiting.

There’s a wild passion and humour in this movie, which are better detected when stoned. I guess that without a "particular approach" this pearl will never shine as it’s supposed to but… in the right moment it gives a lot of fun, which is probably the biggest value of it. Don’t try to search for the intellectual bits here, cause if you do so, you won’t be able to grab the essence of "Wild In The Streets" and will be left disappointed. Great side of the movie is the music composed and recorded by unforgettable Davie Allan & The Arrows (dubbed with a fictional name Max and The Troopers by Tower Records), their overlooked, fantastic garage rocker "A Shape Of Things To Come" swirls your head with a genuine guitar fuzz and is itself one of the reasons why this movie is a must-see for 60’s garage and psychedelia collectors and all people generally interested in 60’s counterculture, fashion and cinema.