Monday, October 19, 2009
Wild In The Streets 1968 film
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Wild in The Streets 1968 Film
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Distributed by American International Pictures
Release date May 29, 1968
Running time 94 min.
Budget $1,000,000 (estimated)
Wild in The Streets is a 1968 film, produced and released by American International Pictures, and based on a short story by writer Robert Thom. The movie, described as both "ludicrous" and "cautionary," was nominated for an Academy Award and became a cult classic.
Christopher Jones stars as aspiring singer and revolutionary Max Frost (born Max Jacob Flatow Jr.; his first public act of violence was blowing up his family's new car). Frost's band The Troopers live together with him, their women, and others in a sprawling Los Angeles mansion. The band includes his 15-year-old genius attorney Billy Cage (Kevin Coughlin) on lead guitar, ex-child actor/girlfriend Sally LeRoy (Diane Varsi) on keyboards, hook-handed Abraham Salteen (Larry Bishop) on bass guitar and trumpet, and anthropologist Stanley X (Richard Pryor) on drums.
When Max is asked to sing at a televised political rally by Kennedyesque Senate candidate Johnny Fergus (Hal Holbrook), who's running on a platform to lower the voting age from 21 to 18 (a genuine issue, not passed until 1971), he and the Troopers appear — but Max stuns everyone by calling instead for the voting age to become 14, then finishes the show with an improvised song, "Fourteen Or Fight!", and a call for a demonstration.
Max's fans (and other young people, by the thousands) stir to action, and within 24 hours protests have begun in cities around the United States. Fergus' advisors want him to denounce Max, but instead he agrees to support the demonstrations, and change his campaign — if Max and his group will compromise, accept a voting age of 15 instead, abide by the law, and appeal to the demonstrators to go home peaceably. Max agrees, and the two appear together on television, and in person the next day using the less offensive mantra "Fifteen and Ready".
Most states agree to lower the voting age within days, in the wake of the demonstrations, and Max Frost and the Troopers campaign for Johnny Fergus until the election, which he wins by a landslide. Taking his place in the Senate, Fergus wishes Frost and his people would now just go away, but instead they get involved with Washington politics. When a Congressman from Sally LeRoy's home district dies suddenly, the band enters her in the special election that follows, and Sally (the eldest of the group, and the only one of majority age to run for office) is voted into Congress by the new teen bloc.
The first bill Sally introduces is a Constitutional amendment to lower the age requirements for national political office — to 14, and "Fourteen Or Fight!" enters a new phase. A joint session of Congress is called, and the Troopers (by now joined by Fergus' son Jimmy, played by Michael Margotta) swing the vote their way by spiking the Washington water supply with LSD, and providing all the Senators and Representatives with teenaged guides.
As teens either take over or threaten the reins of government, the Old Guard (those over 30) turn to Max to run for President, and assert his (their) control over the changing tide. Max again agrees, running as a Republican to his chagrin, but once in office, he turns the tide on his older supporters. Thirty becomes a mandatory retirement age, while those over 35 are rounded up, sent to "re-education camps", and permanently dosed on LSD. Fergus unsuccessfully attempts to dissuade Max by contacting his estranged parents (Bert Freed and Shelley Winters), then tries to assassinate him. Failing at this, he flees Washington with his remaining family, but they are soon rounded up.
With youth now in control of America, politically as well as economically, and similar revolutions breaking out in all the world's major countries, Max withdraws the military from around the world (turning them instead into de facto age police), puts computers and prodigies in charge of the Gross National Product, ships surplus grain for free to third world nations, disbands the FBI and Secret Service, and becomes the leader of "the most truly hedonistic society the world has ever known". The final moments of the film indicate, however, that Max and his cohorts may face future intergenerational warfare from an unexpected source.
The movie features cameos from several media personalities, including Melvin Belli, Dick Clark, Pamela Mason, Army Archerd, and Walter Winchell. Millie Perkins and Ed Begley have supporting roles, and Bobby Sherman interviews Max as President. In a pre-Brady Bunch role, Barry Williams plays the teenaged Max Frost at the beginning of the movie. Peter Tork of Monkees fame also makes a cameo appearance as a ticket buyer.
The storyline was a reductio ad absurdum projection of contemporary issues of the time, taken to extremes, and played poignantly during 1968 — an election year with many controversies (the Vietnam War, the Draft, Civil Rights, the population explosion, rioting and assassinations, and the baby boomer generation coming of age).
The original magazine short story, titled "The Day it All Happened, Baby!" was expanded by its author to book length, and was published as a paperback novel by Pyramid Books.
A soundtrack album was also successful, and the song "The Shape Of Things To Come" (written by songwriters Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil) and performed by Max Frost and the Troopers, featured in the movie, became a #22 hit on the US Billboard charts.
The movie was released on VHS home video in the late 1980s, and in 2005 appeared on DVD, on a twofer disc with another AIP movie, 1971's Gas-s-s-s.