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  Wild in the Streets The Thrill Of The NewBuy this film here.
Year: 1968
Director: Barry Shear
Stars: Christopher Jones, Shelley Winters, Diane Varsi, Hal Holbrook, Millie Perkins, Richard Pryor, Bert Freed, Kevin Coughlin, Larry Bishop, Michael Margotta, Ed Begley, Sally Sachse, Kellie Flanagan, Don Wyndham, May Ishihara, Dick Clark, Pamela Mason
Genre: Musical, Science Fiction
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: When Max Flatow (Christopher Jones) was born, his mother (Shelley Winters) made it clear in no uncertain terms that she had wanted a girl. Max's childhood was one of constant repression as his overbearing mother dictated to him what he could and couldn't do: don't take the plastic sheets off the living room suite, don't let the dog in the house, don't have anything to do with girls... Eventually Max grew up to be a sinister but charismatic young man who dabbled with chemicals, cooking up his own LSD and making his own dynamite. On the day he left home, he destroyed the living room and blew up his father's car - just one step on the road to success.

It's difficult to tell whose side writer Robert Thom and director Barry Shear are on during Wild in the Streets, but the conclusion one finally draws after the hysteria has died down - temporarily - by the film's climax is that they are on nobody's side and every character here is to be despised, if also pitied. Some say that this is a comedy, but the only humour that emerges from it resembles the grin of a shark circling its prey, sending up the wishes of youth culture and the moral panic of the older generation with equal vitriol.

Best to call the film a satire then, but even then it lacks a lightness of touch, preferring to deploy a sledgehammer cynicism instead. After the prologue, we rejoin Max (the now obscure Jones was a promising bright young thing at this stage, and well cast) to find he has become millionaire ("after taxes") Max Frost due to his talent at pop stardom. He has surrounded himself with a youthful entourage who double as his backing band, including Richard Pryor on drums and a fifteen-year-old lawyer (Kevin Coughlin) who helpfully takes care of all legal problems they might face.

From his mansion hideaway, Max draws up his schemes, and a thirty-seven-year-old up and coming senator called Johnny Fergus (Hal Holbrook) opts to jump on the bandwagon and campaign for the voting age to be lowered. Fergus wants it to be eighteen, Frost wants it to be fourteen, so they compromise at fifteen, in spite of his anthem "Fourteen or Fight". The contemporary youth movement against such concerns as war and for such things as drugs is partly the target, and the film illustrates a nightmare scenario of what would happen if the kids got their way, but could this be enjoyed unironically?

What happens is that Max gets his spaced out, former child star girlfriend Sally LeRoy (Diane Varsi) to become a senator, then goes on to use his massive political support to get himself elected as President. If Frost is a monster, then so is his mother who kills a child while speeding in his Rolls Royce, then turns onto LSD to prove that she's still got it in the girlish charms stakes. It's all to no avail when Max demands that everyone over thirty be placed in concentration camps and forcefed acid and the parallels the filmmakers posit between Frost and his troopers and the Nazis become clear, it's the old fascism allegory once again, always a popular topic in science fiction. This could be a prequel to Logan's Run in a way, but a lot grimmer in tone, taking to extremes the worries of its day, although it's quaint to see a film that believes simple politics could change society so quickly. Few would accept that these days. Music by Les Baxter.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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