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Wild In The Streets

click to enlarge

Pyramid Books, New York, 1968
(price: 60 cents)

dedication: For the ladies in my life ... Millie and Kate and Liz and Lillie, Joan and Laura and Ardath ... and, of course, Lillie Mesinger Thurntaxis

The blurb on the back:

Millionaire pop singer Max Frost had it made - money, women, a life of luxury and license, the worship of millions of teenagers. So ... a smart politician figured it made sense to cash in on Max's power over his fans ... and found he - and the whole country - had a big, hungry tiger by the tail!

- a far-out trip to a world that
could be just around the corner - a slashing novel of black humor - and a daring new AMERICAN INTERNATIONAL film, starring Shelley Winters, Christopher Jones, Diane Varsi, Hal Holbrook, Millie Perkins, Richard Pryor and Bert Freed, with guest star Ed Begley. Produced by James H Nicholson and Samuel Z Arkoff. Executive producer Burt Topper. Directed by Barry Shear.

I've got to be honest - I've never seen the film, so I'm working in the dark a bit here. Let's try some experts. Halliwell's Film Guide is predictably unimpressed, but quotes a couple of reviews. The New Yorker in 1977 described it as 'blatant, insensitive, crummy-looking' before admitting that it's 'enjoyable at a pop, comic-strip level,' whilst the Daily Telegraph clearly got a bit carried away: 'It's no less timely a parable today than Orwell's 1984 was 20 years ago.'

The Radio Times Guide To Films (normally a safer bet than Halliwell - at least it's prepared to admit that modern movies are sometimes quite good) doesn't rate the movie: a two-star review says that 'it must have seemed a lot more cutting' at the time (as the Telegraph so gushingly claimed), though it acknowledges that it's 'well-made, lively and often funny'.

The same source also says that the film's based on an article by Thom in Esquire. I don't know anything about that, but it suggests that the full-length novel treatment followed the film. In any event, it's pretty unreadable unless you're an historian of would-be hip American literature of the 1960s. The style is absolutely typical of the wisecracking fast-moving posturing nonsense that screams 'hey look at me, don't I have a wild imagination' and that passed for comedy in the 1960s. If you can picture A Confederacy of Dunces written by a sixth-former, you won't be far off the mark.

Shame I haven't seen the film, then. Richard Pryor was in it, playing a political activist named Stanley X, and that must have been worth seeing. And I would have had the benefit of the songs, which were written by the great Barry Mann and Cynthia Weill:

There are changes lyin' ahead on every road!
And there are new thoughts ready and waitin' to explode!
When tomorrow is today, the bells may change for some,
but nothin' can change the shape of things to come.
back cover photo
l-r: Richard Pryor, Christopher Jones, Shelley Winters


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