Wild in the Streets Blu-ray Review

Shelly Winters and Christopher Jones headline this ’60s political comedy

Wild in the Streets is a political farce of the highest order, succinctly capturing the cultural mood of the late Sixties. Starring Christopher Jones as a famous pop singer, the American political system gets up-ended when the minimum voting age is lowered to 15. Director Barry Shear’s 1968 film is a biting satire of the counterculture and its youthful followers. Co-stars Shelly Winters and Hal Holbrook represent an older generation of “squares” out of touch with the coming generation of teen hipsters and stoners. This is a smart comedy that acts as a fascinating time capsule from the Sixties.

Rock star Max Frost (Christopher Jones) believes “30 is death, man.” Poster boy for the growing counterculture movement, Max espouses off-putting hippy values to his entourage and fans across the country through his songs. A self-serving California politician hopes to ride Max’s incredible popularity with the younger generation into the Senate.

Senate candidate Johnny Fergus (Hal Holbrook) campaigns on the promise of lowering the minimum voting age to 18 (the United States wouldn’t actually lower it until 1971). When Fergus has a big, televised rally with Max, the singer demands in public the voting age should be lowered to 14. Max even crafts a song around the idea, which immediately sweeps the country and inflames teenagers. Thus begins Max’s meteoric rise up the political ladder as a charismatic rock star. His youth empowerment strategy ultimately changes the entire American political system in the fantastical plot. Soon Max will have more political power than even Fergus himself, threatening the establishment and permanently changing the social order.

Wild In The Streets is a unique movie of its time with sure direction from Barry Shears, a veteran television director. It’s an unusual AIP production that did well at the box office, rumored to have received a larger budget than normal. Most of its R rating can be pinned on one character, Sally LeRoy as played by Diane Varsi. Sally is a former child star that wanders around in a daze following Max in various states of undress. Max’s songs heard throughout the film were written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, the hit songwriting duo behind such songs as the Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’.” Interestingly enough, “Shape Of Things To Come” from Wild In The Streets actually charted at #22 in 1968. Their songs are a big reason why the film works.

The movie is a striking portrait of the cultural divide that started swirling in the late Sixties.

For Christopher Jones’ part as Max, he’s rock-solid as the pop star spouting incoherent political nonsense. It’s a performance that could have broken the movie if Jones didn’t have the right presence. Besides Shelly Winters really hamming it up as Max’s overly clingy mother, the most noticeable actor that sticks out today is Richard Pryor in a supporting role as Max’s drummer. It’s an early role for the comedian. There is some irony in Hal Holbrook being portrayed as a paragon of youth in the film. Holbrook would go on to have a long and successful acting career getting typecast as a more elderly gentleman.

Wild In The Streets is a parody of the increasing generational gap between youthful Baby Boomers and their parents at the time. The movie is a striking portrait of the cultural divide that started swirling in the late Sixties. It skewers the era’s youth culture and the standing political establishment with equal contempt. The movie manages to throw in a warning about the growing power of pop stars with enormous influence over their fans.

This type of comedy often doesn’t age well being so grounded in the zeitgeist of an era long gone. Wild In The Streets somehow manages to avoid that problem with its vividly drawn characters and brisk pacing. By the time it wears out its welcome, the movie is nearing its finish. If you enjoy subversive political humor, this is your movie.

Wild in the Streets Blu-ray screen shot 9

Video

Olive Films has licensed the AIP production from MGM. The 1968 movie, shot on Eastmancolor film stock, receives a moderately serviceable presentation on Blu-ray. The 1080P video won’t wow anyone with its dated HD transfer and mild definition. The 96-minute main feature is encoded in adequate AVC on a BD-25. It is framed at its intended 1.85:1 aspect ratio.

With its flat color saturation and dull resolution, the transfer appears to be an older telecine effort from unrestored film elements. It has not been processed by sharpening or filtering, leaving a fairly natural, softer presentation. The rougher grain structure would likely be improved on a newer film scan. Some minor debris is evident on the film print. A couple of running vertical lines appear in one scene. This has not been cleaned up beyond fair condition.

Wild In The Streets looks serviceable on Blu-ray. The video itself has decent contrast and there is enough detail to mark it as truly Hi-Def. It is a mild improvement in picture quality over DVD.

Audio

The original monaural soundtrack is heard in satisfactory 2.0 DTS-HD MA audio. The dialogue is a bit thin in the mix, lower in volume than the various songs and Les Baxter’s score. This is boxy sound design that is rough around the edges. AIP films tended to have less pristine soundtracks than studio films and this is true as well for Wild In The Streets. Recording fidelity is on par with most independent filmmaking in the late Sixties.

Optional English subtitles appear in a white font.

Extras

Wild In The Streets Trailer (02:42 in HD) – A vintage movie trailer in adequate but muddy condition.

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