"Hey Johnny, what are you rebelling against?"
"What do you got?"
That memorable quote is the second most famous thing about The Wild One, the 1953 minor classic that recently made its debut on Blu-ray. Of course, the most famous thing about The Wild One is the iconic image (see above) of a young, virile Marlon Brando, clad in leather motorcycle jacket, blue jeans and biker's hat (helmets are for squares), his manly sex appeal radiating off the screen like the supernova of a star he was fast becoming at the time.
As Johnny Strabler, Brando was the original, true "rebel without a cause", and his Wild One look went on to influence everything from the Fonz to the gay leather scene (see Kenneth Anger's Scorpio Rising for solid proof of that). Not quite as timeless is the film itself, which is mostly dated and often comical in its over-earnest depictions of "untamed youth" terrorizing a small town. A biker gang that includes Jerry Parks (best known as Rob Petrie's neighbor on the old Dick Van Dyke Show) as one of its members isn't particularly threatening, although Lee Marvin certainly adds the crazy.
Situated on Brando's filmography between his breakout Stanley Kowalski and his Oscar winning Terry Malloy, Johnny isn't exactly wild, spending most of the film mooning over the good girl daughter of the local sheriff. But even with Brando's method approach curiously muted, you can't take your eyes off of him.
MD Rating: B
The Wild One is now available on Blu-ray:
Review by Kirby Holt, creator and editor of Movie Dearest, The QuOD: The Queer Online Database and the Out Movie Guide.