From the novel The Cyclists’ Raid by Frank Rooney (or possibly just a magazine article, I’m having a hard time pinning that one down…looks to me like IMDB says Novel and many web sites are taking that and running with it, but all the sources that actually quote him quote his story from Harper’s in 1951)
Two motorcycle gangs come to town, with (yawn) predictable results.
Well, firstly, I have to admit that this is one of the movies of which MAD magazine did a wonderful parody…and I remember the whole thing vividly from when I was a young otter, mis-spending my youth reading those gol-durn comic books and illustrated magazines (instead of my sober adulthood, when I have graduated to Graphic Novels…!) and loved MAD’s movie parodies.
Also, this was an AGVAPSNBA* evening, and one of the rules there is that MSTing of movies is obligatory…still.
This movie was just really, really, completely and totally lame.
Okay, it was famous when it came out. Oh my golly! Motorcycle gangs! Outrageous! Young hellions! No respect for authority! Terrorizing the town! Drinking beer! Chasing girls! In PUBLIC! Brutally assaulting the respectable citizens of the town! Oh my sainted aunt!
Mr. Otter assured us that this movie was based on a real incident, in of all places Hollister, CA (right down the road from House o’ Otter), where there is now a yearly motorcycle convention…here is what one person had to say about this incident:
“The tale was inspired and loosely based on a real-life incident over the Fourth of July weekend in 1947 in Hollister, California, (publicized in an issue of Harper’s Magazine in a January 1951 article titled “The Cyclists’ Raid” by Frank Rooney), when about four thousand people, composed of motorcyclists and other visitors and enthusiasts, roared into the town over a two day period, and overwhelmed the facilities. However, they did not ransack the town, confront the locals, or cause civil unrest (except for some arrests for drunkenness, or urinating in public – often due to a lack of restrooms).”
from Tim Dirk’s review at filmsite.org
Folks, this one was SO silly. Ooh, ooh, these teenagers (or, more like it, genuine former teenagers…some of those actors were pretty long in the tooth) are in town and are being (gasp) HOODLUMS! And then the OTHER motorcycle gang comes to town…and they’re DRUNK! in PUBLIC!
And so on. Makes you wonder if these townspeople ever had fun in their lives. And of course, as is the way with MAD parodies, many of the key scenes of the movie were so perfectly captured in their hallowed pages that, as in Chinatown, I could predict a scene in a movie that I had never seen…kinda fun.
Anyway. Marlon Brando was whiny, sneery and disaffected, made me want to smack him one up side the head. We discussed whether he actually made James Dean in East of Eden seem more appealing by comparison…a hard call. And (sadly) even in his youth (29 years old in this one) Mr. Brando was getting kinda tubby…his jeans (which were supposed to be outrageously tight and revealing) just had a little too much, mmm, how shall we say it delicately, avoirdupois in them for my taste…not the kind of image one would expect of a motorcycle ruffian, at least before the huge beer-bellied Hell’s Angel look was common. Brando was already starting on the poundage that would become his trademark later in life.
Now, Lee Marvin, whose part was much too small, and quite reminiscent of his role in Cat Ballou (genial drunk) was quite a nice picture in his tight jeans, which fit him to a fare-thee-well. Hm. Not sure if Mr. Marvin is a honey, but he just might be. I’ll get back to you on that.
Anyway. This was more a portrait of small town dithering when faced with emergency situation than youth gone wild…we really did make a lot of cracks at this one, and it was much better that way than if we had actually tried to take it seriously.
Yes, it’s famous, sure, go ahead and watch it, but it’s so dated…
*All Girls Video and Pizza Sleepover No Boys Allowed. Theme: Motorcycles.
Although since it turned out that Mr. Otter couldn’t take the weekend off from work, we let the guys come, and had a mixed-sex AGVAPSNBA. And all of us women agreed, the experience was certainly lacking somewhat from the prime AGVAPSNBAs of the past, when seven or eight women would spend the evening eating, gossiping, belching, scratching and making unbelieveably rude comments about whatever movie we were watching…ah well. We just did the one, and a very cool episode of a TV show called American Chopper (the Black Widow episode) and called it a night.