Directed by Barry Shear
Written by Robert Thom
Starring Christopher Jones, Shelley Winters, Diane Varsi, Hal Holbrook, Richard Pryor.
American International Pictures was the home of the exploitation films of the 50s and 60s – low budget films following particular movie and social trends. In the 50s, it was monsters; in the 60s, they started doing youth-oriented films like the Beach Party movies. And as the youth movement of the 1960s became political, the jumped on that bandwagon with Wild in the Streets.
It’s the story of Max Frost (Christopher Jones), a rock and roll star who lives the counterculture lifestyle in a Beverly Hills mansion. The group is asked to perform at live televised rally for Senate candidate Johnny Fergus (Hal Holbrook). Holbrook wants to get the youth vote on his side, and campaigned to lower the voting age to 18. Frost upsets the applecart by singing that the voting age be lowered to 14. Of course, the power of your can’t be denied, so states start lowering the voting age. Eventually, the youth take over, and Max become president, where he institutes his “horrifying” agenda.
I was 15 when it was released, and the entire concept seemed silly. The main strength of the film is its soundtrack.* Written by veteran rock and roll songwriters Barry Mann and Cynthia Weill, it was one of the few times a movie used real rock for music to represent rock music.**
The movie was a big success; given its low budget, it wasn’t difficult for it to make money. It even got one Oscar nomination.
It certainly isn’t a classic, but, for all its flaws, it’s an energetic bit of alternate history that tells more about the time it was created in than anything else.
*Usually the sign of a bad movie.
**Too many films of the 50s or 60s used modified big bands to play what they thought was rock music.