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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » The Wild One (Blu-ray)
The Wild One (Blu-ray)
Mill Creek // Unrated // March 17, 2015 // Region A
List Price: $14.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Ian Jane | posted March 14, 2015 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
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A D V I C E
Recommended
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The Movie:

Directed by Laslo Benedek and released in 1953, The Wild One may seem a little tame by modern standards but it remains an iconic film and there's no disputing the fact that in its day, this movie was pretty strong stuff. The plot revolves around The Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, or B.M.R.C. if you want to go by the logos painted on the backs of their leather jackets, led by a tough guy named Johnny Strabler (Marlon Brando). The movie lets us know right from the start, when they steal a trophy at a motorcycle race and mess with the local cops, that these guys are bad news.

From there, we see the B.R.M.C. swoop into a small town, again, really just to cause trouble. Some of the local business owners are okay with them, as the bikers are happy enough to spend money on beer and food, but the cops aren't so keen. Sheriff Harry Bleeker (Robert Keith) is one of those cops and as he's the man in charge, he's got his guys keeping a close watch on Johnny and his pals. Meanwhile, Johnny and a local diner worker named Kathie (Mary Murphy), are starting to fall for one another. This complicates things as Mary's the sheriff's daughter. If the gang's presence in town wasn't enough, another problem develops when Johnny gets into a riff with China (Lee Marvin), the leader of a rival gang.

A classic story of youth gone wild and the conflict that will inevitably arise when the local squares take issue, The Wild One is very much and very obviously a product of its time but no worse off for it. The image of a slick looking Brando clad in his leather jacket with his cap crooked over to the side, a sneer on his face, remains iconic and let's face it, he's about as cool as they come in this picture. His performance is rock solid here, he's very obviously barely controlling his rage and Brando does a great job of communicating the imminent danger inherent in his character with just a knowing glance. He's cool and calm and collected when chatting up pretty Kathie, but when things get bad with the townsfolk and with Chino, we know he means business. It's a great role for Brando. It might not ask him to stretch that much as an actor but it suits him really well and he not only pulls it off but he makes it look effortless.

As far as the rest of the cast goes, Robert Keith is pretty good as the town sheriff. We know he's hesitant to confront these guys even if his constituents, or at least some of his constituents, want him to. He knows that to do so could make things worse, but he's the sheriff and it is his job to deal with such dilemmas. Keith handles this part well. Mary Murphy is fine in her part but she really doesn't have much complexity to her character. She likes Johnny for reasons that maybe she doesn't want to acknowledge: she's attracted to the bad boy in him but herself remains the wholesome all-American girl next door type. It's a pretty common plot device in movies throughout history to pair up these two types, The Wild One doesn't really add anything new to the idea. But it works. The real scene stealer in the film, however, is Lee Marvin as the hard drinking and even harder hitting Chino. Marvin looks completely unhinged here and you have to wonder how much of it is really an act given his tendency to fall inside a bottle from time to time. He's a big guy and he's got a great screen presence. In this picture he uses all of that to his advantage and makes Chino a foil to remember.

So if the B.R.M.C. aren't the toughest, scariest bikers in cinematic history (they're reasonably polite and don't mind paying their bar tabs promptly!) and have since been outdone by the trashier drive-in bikersploitation movies and even TV shows like Sons Of Anarchy, there are still plenty of reasons to watch and appreciate The Wild One. The dialogue is sharp, the acting is great and the camerawork and use of music consistently strong. If the storyline occasionally slops around in melodramatic clichés, so be it. There's lots of entertainment value still to be had with this one and it really did set the ground for pretty much ever biker movie to follow in its wake.

The Blu-ray:
Video:

The Wild One arrives on Blu-ray in its original fullframe aspect ratio in AVC encoded 1080p high definition and the black and white picture looks excellent. Detail is consistently impressive and the image is nice and clean throughout, you'll really have to look to see any serious print damage here at all. Blacks are nice and deep while contrast stays nicely balanced, never really too hot or too cold. There's decent texture and depth to the image, you'll notice background details that on previous DVD presentations weren't as obvious and you'll pick up on subtleties in the costumes too, like little details on the leather jackets and caps that the B.R.M.C. members wear. Outside of a few shots that show some odd ghosting effects around bright street lights (likely an issue stemming back to the original elements) this is a really solid picture, fans of the film should be quite happy with it.

Audio:

The English language DTS-HD Mono track, the only option on the disc, is also top notch. Optional English subtitles are also provided. While this may be an older single channel mix there's good clarity and a fair amount of depth here. The motorcycle engines have a nice roar to them while the score has nice presence. Dialogue stays clean, clear and properly balanced and there are no issues to note with any hiss or distortion.

Extras:

Outside of a static menu and chapter selection, there are no extra features on this disc.

Overall:

The Wild One is one of those truly iconic films, and while it's very definitely a product of its time, Brando's ‘cool' factor has not been diminished one iota over the decades. It's slick, it's entertaining and it's absolutely worth seeing. Mill Creek's Blu-ray release is sadly devoid of any extras but it does look and sound very good in high definition. Recommended.

Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.

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