Welcome to today’s show, Wild in the Streets (1968), my name is John. As always you can subscribe to the show on iTunes or follow the links to social media in the podcast show notes. So please subscribe when you are finished listening. You can also go to snarkymoviereviews.com to read notes, bios, and other random movie thoughts.
Today’s movie is Wild in the Streets (1968). This movie is part of the counter-culture narrative and plays heavily on the oft-quoted “Never trust anyone over 30.” I guess the young people were being sent to Vietnam and may have had justification for the way the felt. You could not vote or drink at 18 but you sure could be drafted. This counter-culture theme was explored a little with Vanishing Point (1971), Logan’s Run (1976), and some other films in a future podcast.
The timeframe of the movie was 1968 to 1969. In the movie, the Republican presidential candidate defeats the Democratic incumbent, which at the time was Lyndon B. Johnson, LBJ. At the time of the movie, it was believed that LBJ would run for a second term. LBJ has finished John Kennedy’s term after he was assassinated and won a four-year term on his own. However, Johnson chose not to run and the Democratic candidate was Hubert H. Humphrey who lost badly to Richard M. Nixon.
So, let’s get on to the actors, with only one show veteran.
Bert Freed played the role of Max Jacob Flatow, Sr., the hen pecked out of touch father of the young president. Freed was covered in Episode 73 – Billy Jack (1971).
Shelley Winters played the over-caring mother of the young president, Daphne Flatow. Winters was born in Illinois in 1920 or 22. Her family moved to Brooklyn when she was very young. Winters started performing in plays while she was in high school. She worked as a model and as a borscht belt vaudevillian. The borscht belt is a mostly defunct name for the Catskills Mountain clubs.
During a national campaign to find someone unknown to play Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind (1939), director George Cukor advised Winters to take acting lessons. She did and before long she was working on Broadway. However, the pull of Hollywood was too strong and she headed out west.
Winters has some rough years in Hollywood, not getting much more than bit parts. Finally, she got noticed for her role in A Double Life (1947). She had a small role in Red River (1948) and an important role in Winchester ’73 (1950). But she kept getting small and tawdry roles.
Winters played pitiful characters in films such as A Place in the Sun (1951) where she is murdered by the father of her unborn child, played by Montgomery Clift, so he could pursue Elizabeth Taylor’s character.
Winters kept getting the same roles, hussy, drunk, gold digger. To combat this Winters began doing serious stage work and honing her craft at the Actor’s Studio. Winters hit it big again when she played the wife of a vicious killer, played by Robert Mitchum, in the fascinating The Night of the Hunter (1955). She played the super sensitive Mrs. Van Daan in The Diary of Anne Frank (1959). For this role, she won a best-supporting actress Oscar. Another powerful role was as the clueless mother in Lolita (1962). In A Patch of Blue (1965) she played a prostitute that turned her blind daughter out for money. This role got her a second Oscar.
As she continued to grow larger she found good supporting roles as Jewish mothers’. In The Poseidon Adventure (1972) she played an aging swimming champion that died after making a long swim during the escape. The 1970s and 1980s found Winters making the late-night talk shows and making her way with wild tales of Hollywood and her numerous affairs.
Winters has been most recently seen play Roseanne Barr’s loud-mouthed mother on the “Roseanne” show. Winters died of a heart attack in 2006.
Christopher Jones played the role of Max Frost, rock star that leveraged his popularity into the Presidency. Jones was born in 1941, in Jackson, Tennessee, which I believe is now the meth capital of America. His mother was committed when he was 4 and she eventually died in an asylum.
Jones has a rough youth and was in foster homes, orphanages, and one point Boys Town, which was probably not run by Father Flanagan and should be read as youth jail. Jones joined the military, went AWOL, and served time on Governor’s Island.
Following his release, he began studying art but people convinced him that he looked like James Dean and he should try acting. Jones was accepted to the Actor’s Studio and found a role on Broadway. He married Susan Strasberg, the daughter of Lee Strasberg. It doesn’t hurt to marry well. However, this one only lasted 3 years.
Jones starred in Chubasco (1967) with his wife and then made a 1960s counter-culture hit with Wild in the Streets (1968) were the youth of America took over the political system. Jones had other roles in films such as The Looking Glass War (1970) and Ryan’s Daughter (1970). However, not long as actress Sharon Tate was murdered by the Mansion family in 1969, Jones dropped out of acting. Quentin Tarantino offered the recluse a role in Pulp Fiction (1994) which Jones refused. However, he did appear in a small role in Mad Dog Time (1996).
Ed Begley played the role of Senator Amos Allbright, a member of the old guard. Begley was born in 1901 in Connecticut. Begley started acting at the age of 9 in local theater. He allegedly left home at 11 and made his way on his own. He served in the US Navy for 4 years. In 1931, he started working in vaudeville. He began working in the professional theater but it took until 1947 before he had a starring role.
His first movie was Boomerang! (1947). As well as remaining a prolific television actor, Begley was in almost every genre of films. These included westerns such as The Lady from Texas (1951), Lonestar (1952), and Hang ‘Em High (1968) – film noirs such as Sorry, Wrong Number (1948), Backfire (1950), On Dangerous Ground (1951), Deadline – U.S.A. (1952), and Odds Against Tomorrow (1959) – comedies such as It Happens Every Spring (1949), and You’re in the Navy Now (1951) – musical The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1964), and the amazing drama 12 Angry Men (1957).
Begley died of a heart attack in 1970 at the age of 69.
Hal Holbrook played the role of young Senator Johnny Fergus, who thought he could control the youth vote. Holbrook was born in Ohio in 1925. Holbrook served in the Army during World War II. After the war, he attended Denison University and wrote an honors project on Mark Twain. He performed as Mark Twain many times in his career.
Holbrook became a television actor and worked on soap opera as well as stage performances. The first movie that I associate Holbrook with is All the President’s Men (1976) where he played “Deep Throat” rather than the earlier Wild in the Streets (1968). Holbrook was in The Great White Hope (1970), Magnum Force (1973), Midway (1976), along with everyone else, the great space adventure Capricorn One (1977), the utterly horrible The Fog (1980), The Star Chamber (1983), Wall Street (1987), Fletch Lives (1989), The Firm (1983), Men of Honor (2000), Into the Wild (2007) which resulted in him being the oldest male nominate for an Oscar, and Lincoln (2012). But in spite of that resume he may be best known as Burt Reynold’s father-in-law on “Evening Shades” 1990-1994. Mr. Holbrook is still with us at the age of 92, having recently appeared as a World War II veteran on “Hawaii Five-O” in 2017.
There were some good cameos and uses of clips in this movie. Pop singer Bobby Sherman was uncredited as an interviewer, the Monkees guitarist Peter Tork was uncredited as a ticket buyer, Dick Clark was a TV anchor, and future Greg Brady, Barry Williams was uncredited in the role of young Max. Finally, famed newsman Walter Winchell was seen in clips.
The movie begins with voices of Daphne Flatow (Shelly Winters) being coerced into having a baby by Max Jacob Flatow (Bert Freed). Then it shows the birth announcement for Max Jacob Flatow, Jr. The baby is locked away in a crib as the parents’ fight. As he gets older his mother shames him about sex. As a teen (Berry Williams) his mother henpeckes the men and roles reverse. It switches to full grown Max (Christopher Jones) in the basement putting LSD on sugar cubes. He offers the drugs to his mother but she refuses. He is also making a bomb to blow up his father’s car. Max is ready to leave home. Max murders his mother’s beloved furniture, writes a not in lipstick, says goodbye to the dog, and blows up the car before leaving.
As the credits role, Max has become a rock star and is sporting a 3-inch ponytail. He is 22-years old and is extremely rich owning multiple companies. The members of the band are his advisors; Stanley X (Richard Pryor) anthropologist and author of “The Aborigine Cookbook,” Billy Cage (Kevin Coughlin), The Hook (Larry Bishop) [at one point Max calls the Hook his trumpet player, but he is clearly the bass player], Sally LeRoy (Diane Varsi), and Fuji Elly (May Ishihara).
He becomes the messiah of the under 25 singing songs about being 52%. Not too good. Daphne is at home desperately trying to stay young when she sees her son on television and recognizes him. She immediately thinks of wigs and facelifts before going to see Max. She goes through a beauty regime akin to what Norma Desmond did in Sunset Blvd. (1950).
Max has father several daughters and is somewhat interested in their lives. Daphne and Max Sr. youthfully decked out prepare to go to Max Jr. Concert. Daphne even says Mother and Father journeying into the West, following a star, reinforcing the Messiah.
Max Jr. and crew are watching Democratic Senatorial candidate from California Johnny Fergus (Hal Holbrook) talking about lowering the voting age to 18 because at that age they can be drafted and asked to fight. In fact, the 26th Amendment to the Constitution was passed on March 10, 1971, just 3 years after this movie was released). Max and crew ruminate on the fact that the senator is old at 37. They all agree that they don’t want to live past 30. Max has agreed to play a rally for Senator Fergus.
Daphne and Max Sr. bribe their way into the concert. Daphne is star struck but Sr. not so much. Daphne fights her way backstage and finds Max. They all pile into the car and Daphne drives wild until she runs off the road and kills a small kid. He tells Billy to get her out of the trouble and that she should stay away from him.
At the rally, the senator introduces Max to his children. The two boys and young Mary are really taken by Max. The Hook is shown with a trumpet. Max sorta supports the senator and says he is “sneaky Panther games.” He says Billy is 15. Max calls for 14-year-old voting and sings 14 or fight. The song also contains the phrase “Rocking the vote.” Max starts to call them troops and organizing flash mobs.
The senior senator for California Senator Amos Allbright (Ed Begley) warns Fergus that he is playing with fire. They hear Max Frost music from Fegus’ kids. Fegus goes to see Max to try and stop the mob from forming on Saturday night. Allbright blows up the meeting. Fergus tries to take the middle ground. He says he can handle them. They change the call to 15 and ready and Max agrees to make the mob be peaceful.
The mob begins showing up on Friday. The moving kid’s shut down traffic through the greater LA area. Mobs form in other cities. Fergus slaps his son who wants to go to the rally. The Hook asks Max to restore his hook hand in another messiah reference. Max and Fergus show up 7-hours early and calm the mob down. Over time 21 states have lowered the voting age. All Max has to do is name a location for a mob and states panic and change the law.
Fergus’ oldest son comes to stay with Max. He tells Max that when Fergus gets elected he will dump Max. He also tells him that a congressman died and Max can get anyone elected. They decide that Sally LaRue should run because she is turning 25. At the next concert, Max calls for Sally’s election.
With Max’s support, Sally gets elected to the House of Representatives. On the first day, she wears an admiral hat and calls for an amendment lowering the age for all national offices to 14. She is backed by her crew in the gallery. We know that if a single nut could control the House it would be out of control all the time.
A giant mob of kids comes to Washington and it last for 40 days and 40 nights. There is that Bible stuff again. Finally, the kids break through and the Capital Police open fire. Max goes on stage to sing that nothing can change the shape of things to come.
Congress is under siege in the capital after the 12 kids were killed. Senator Fergus’ son, now a full revolutionary, comes to see him. The kid’s ideas are a little out there and the talk ends badly. The senator gets good and drunk and attacks all of his children’s posters.
Max and his crew are deciding how to get the votes they still need and after seeing Sally tripping, they decide to give acid to all their political opponents. They drop gallon jars of LSD in the water and send a youth to be a trip guide for each senator. Even Senator Allbright is having a good time. They approve the amendment while high.
Daphne is a full-on hippy and Max Sr. is disabled. Daphne has been taking LSD therapy. Fergus tries to get her to stop Max Jr. but she says she is behind him.
Max Jr. wants to run as his own party or as a Democrat, but his crew convinces him to go Republican. They show an LBJ look alike petting his hound dogs as Max is nominated at the Republican convention. Max campaigns to the young people and wins every state except Hawaii.
As President, Max addresses Congress which now has many younger people. Fergus has a gun in his desk and gets ready to fires on Max as Max screams for the power. Fergus flees. Max’s plan is to make everyone retire at 30 and at 35 you have to report to a Center where you will be zonked on LSD for the rest of your days.
Young black shirters begin rounding up everyone. Max claims they will go willingly by al the scenes are forced. Allbright is in one of the camps, wearing a purple robe and smiling happily. Max Sr. is there and happy as well.
Max’s people give a lethal overdose of STP to the Hawaiians and the ones that survived are very weird. Older people are being hidden in attics and basements. Remind you of anyone?
Black shirters capture Senator Fergus and his wife, who have been hiding out in the wilderness (Eden). The youth revolution spreads to the USSR and China.
Finally, they come for Daphne who shots at them but is shortly captured. She shouts I’m young I’m young then I’m Aryan, I’m Aryan, then no I’m young I’m young as they drag her away. Max watches from his car.
Fergus’ wife is shown sad in one of the camps and the senator is shown hanged in a tree. Kind of a Judas thing going on.
Max has taken the Fergus child Mary and he goes to visit one of his baby mamas. Mary is dressed as a black shirters. When he tells her to stay, Mary gets mad and calls him old.
Daphne freaks out and tries to climb the barbed wire fence and when she is pulled down starts singing my country ’tis of thee. Oddly similar to the drive-in detention camp in Red Dawn (1984).
Max sends grain to poor countries, disbands the military, and the intelligence agencies. He can’t get it out of his head that Mary called him old. Max plays around in the woods while “Shape of Things To Come” is played again. Max kills a crawfish and some kids come up and say it was their pet. Max tells the boys they are not big enough to do anything about it and one of the kids looks at the camera and says we are going to put everyone over 10 out of business.
The credits roll.
There were a lot of messiah references and some Hitler stuff even though Max was portrayed as good if not somewhat naive.
The majority of the music, including “Shape of Things To Come” was written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. The pair wrote some pretty popular songs like “On Broadway” performed by the Drifters, “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin” performed by The Righteous Brothers and co-written with Phil Spector, “We Gotta Get out of This Place” performed by The Animals, “Make Your Own Kind of Music” performed by Mama Cass Elliot, “Kicks” performed by Paul Revere & the Raiders, and “Here You Come Again” performed by Dolly Parton.
For the songs in the movie, Christopher Jones’ voice was dubbed by Paul Wibier.
Davie Allan & the Arrows probably made up most of the band “The 13th Power” credited with singing “The Shape of Things to Come” which was released under the name Max Frost and the Troopers. David Allan recorded on the soundtrack for The Born Losers (1968).
Oddly, this movie was nominated for an Oscar in 1969 for Best Film Editing.
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Beware the moors