“Our young people are citizens. They’re concerned, committed, original, vital — they are citizens; we must give them the rights of citizens.”
Senator Johnny Fergus (Hal Holbrook) uses popular rock star Max Frost (Christopher Jones) as a political ploy to gain the country’s “youth vote.” Things quickly spin out of control, however, when Frost and his friends entreat the nation not to “trust anyone over 30”.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Generation Gap
- Millie Perkins Films
- Naive Public
- Political Corruption
- Richard Pryor Films
- Satires and Spoofs
- Shelley Winters Films
Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary describes this cult AIP flick as a “vile movie, a fascist fantasy, an insult to America’s politically conscious youth” — but I think he misses the point. Wild in the Streets is actually a relatively smart, pointed satire which isn’t afraid to carry its provocative (albeit ludicrous) premise to a logical end. When Shelley Winters (perfectly cast as Max’s hypocritical, brown-nosing mother) accidentally shouts out, “I’m an Aryan!” as she’s dragged away by the regime’s Age Police, the allegory between Frost’s Youth-topia and Hitler’s Third Reich couldn’t be clearer. These may be “awful characters”, as Peary notes, but who says power doesn’t corrupt?
Once they’ve managed to take over the White House and imprison anyone over 35 in LSD “concentration camps”, director Barry Shear doesn’t allow Frost and his cronies to rest on the laurels of their successful coup. Instead, the film continues inexorably along its dystopic path: when Frost informs Fergus’s young daughter, Mary, that he’s 24, she responds with youthful disdain, “That’s old!” The fear on Frost’s face at this moment shows that he’s beginning to realize (perhaps too late) the folly of his logic.
Inevitable comparisons have been made between this film and 1968’s Privilege — an equally provocative satire about a popular musician used for nefarious political purposes. But ultimately the films take radically different approaches to their subject matter. Privilege revolves around a patsy rock star who gradually comes to realize that his very identity is being manipulated by the government. Frost, however, is politically savvy from the get-go, and never lets up on his bitter thirst to eliminate the equation of age and experience with wisdom and ability.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Jones’s charismatic portrayal as Max Frost (though his ratty ponytail has got to go!)
- Richard Pryor as Frost’s drummer
- Shelley Winters as Daphne Flato
- Catchy, if annoying, songs
Yes. This cult movie may offend those who have fond memories of the 1960s youth movement, but today the film comes across as a surprisingly provocative, biting satire.