Wild in the Streets (29 May 1968)
American International Pictures
Director: Barry Shear (1923 – 1979)
Writer: Robert Thom (1929 – 1979) married to Millie Perkins from 1964
Boys: Christopher Jones (1941 – 2014), Richard Pryor (1940 – 2005), Kevin Coughlin (1945 – 1976 – car accident, Maryjane, The Young Runaways), Michael Margotta (Maryjane), Peter Tork (born 1942, The Monkees), Gary Busey (born 1944, Point Break), Bill Mumy (born 1954, Lost In Space), Barry Williams (born 1954, The Brady Bunch)
Olds: Shelley Winters (1920 – 2006), Hal Holbrook (born 1925), Bert Freed (1919 – 1994, The Swinger), Ed Begley (1901 – 1970), Russ Bender (1910 – 1969) Devil’s Angels, Maryjane, Live a Little, Love a Little)
Blunt Philosophy With Dual Exhausts and a Clear Logic: Singer Runs Country in ‘Wild in the Streets’
By RENATA ADLER
The New York Times. Published: May 30, 1968.
EVENTS overtake fantasy so quickly now that any movie about the generation gap ought to be dated almost before the titles run, but “Wild in the Streets” is a kind of instant classic, a revved-up “La Chinoise” or “Privilege” for the drive-ins in summertime. Blunt, a little preachy, a product of American International Pictures (of beach party and teen-age werewolf fame), the movie is philosophy with dual exhausts and a very clear logic about where things lead.
A boy of 19 (played by Christopher Jones), alienated by his mama, poisons the family bulldog, blows up the car and goes out to seek his fortune. Within a short time he is a famous pop singer—”a multimillionaire,” the script is careful to point out, “after taxes”—surrounded by sybaritic hippies, a Black Power drummer (author, the script says, of the best-selling “Aborigine Cookbook”), a 15-year-old Yale law grad, and other friends.
A liberal candidate for Senator from California, inevitably, seeks their support. When he gets it, and wins by offering to lower the voting age to 15 (a compromise figure they reach so the Yale grad can vote), the kids become aware of their power and decide to run a candidate of their own. She wins. In Washington, the youngsters don’t bother with rhetoric about loss of faith in the electoral system. They riot until a dozen of them are killed, then put LSD in the water supply so that Congress amends the Constitution to lower the Presidential eligibility age to 14.
The pop singer is elected President, sweeping “every state, with the single and remarkable exception of Hawaii.”
The liberal Senator who started the whole thing tears up a Donald Duck poster in his rage. The administration establishes a mandatory retirement age at 30. At 35, citizens are escorted — by black-shirted young goons in baseball caps—to “rehabilitation camps,” where, “in groovy surroundings,” they are given compulsory LSD from a row of green water coolers.
The script is rather heavily weighted against the old. When the pop singer’s mother, played with wonderful exaggeration by Shelley Winters, recognizes him on a television program—a recognition she manages only by consulting an old family photograph — she crows, “I’m a celebrity.” When she drives to see him, she manages to run over a child and cripple her husband. The only dated thing in the picture is the treatment of the very young. The kid insurgents feel a certain amount of pressure from the 3-year-olds (“That’s right. They’re better than we are,” Diane Varsi, as Mr. Jones’s freaked-out girlfriend, says) but they are very kind to them. One realizes, last year’s flower children have also been overtaken by events; they seem as dated as the sweet vegetarian brontosauruses.
The writing (by Robert Thom, on the basis of his own short story) is often marvelous. There are some monotonous, ringing banalities spoken by the young, but there are other lines: the liberal Senator (played with power corrupt cool by Hal Holbrook) visits Miss Winters to complain that her son is paralyzing the country, she answers with dignity. “Senator,” she says, in what might be a slogan for our times. “I’m sure my son has a very good reason for paralyzing the country.”
The movie, which opened yesterday at the New Embassy Theater and the 72d Street Playhouse, also features Millie Perkins, Ed Begley, Richard Pryor, Walter Winchell, Kenneth Banghart, Louis Lomax and Melvin Belli. It was directed by the TV director, Barry Shear. The music is quite live rock.