– 'Hey Johnny, what're you rebelling against?'
– 'Whadda ya got?'
The original outlaw biker film, 1953's The Wild One stars Marlon Brando as Johnny, the leather-clad leader of the B.R.M.C. (Black Rebels Motorcycle Club). When Johnny and his gang descend on the sleepy town of Wrightsville, they're greeted with mild amusement by most of the locals. However, when the arrival of another gang led by Johnny's rival Chino (Lee Marvin) stirs things up, a group of townsfolk decide to take matters into their own hands, with predictably tragic results.
Clearly a lot has changed in the decades since The Wild One was first released. For all of their carousing and anti-authoritarian antics (which saw the BBFC ban the film for 14 years on this side of the Atlantic), Johnny and his gang are actually pretty genial types; we're a long way from Sons of Anarchy here. The bikers' fondness for big band jazz seems pretty odd, too, until you remember that cinema's rock 'n' roll revolution didn't really get underway until The Blackboard Jungle's use of Rock Around the Clock a couple of years later.
But no matter how outdated many elements of The Wild One seem today, Brando's magnetism holds it all together. Without him the film would probably seem pretty risible; a cartoonish piece of social commentary. But with him it becomes that little bit edgier, sexier and more dangerous – and is all the more enjoyable.
Picture: Sourced from an 'HD remaster' supplied by Sony Pictures, The Wild One cuts a fine figure on Blu-ray. The 1080p rendering of the film's 1.37:1 black-and-white photography reveals plenty of fine detail and authentic contrast levels. While a handful of night shots contain an anomaly with bright light sources, these appear to stem from a misaligned lens filter on the camera, rather than being something introduced at a later date.
Picture rating: 4.5/5
Audio: The LPCM 1.0 mono soundtrack has also been cleaned up and offers crystal-clear dialogue alongside throaty motorcycle engine rumbles and swinging jazz numbers.
Audio rating: 3.5/5
Extras: There's loads of great stuff to get stuck into here including an audio commentary with film historian Jeanine Basinger; a fascinating account of the film's difficult history with British censors (25 minutes); the cut-down Super 8 version of the movie with an exclusive narration used to fill in the gaps (20 minutes); an introduction to the film by producer Stanley Kramer's wife Karen (one minute); a featurette talking to people who experienced the real events that inspired the film (28 minutes); a featurette about Brando (19 minutes); the theatrical trailer (two minutes); a gallery of stills and posters; plus one of the label's very best booklets to date.
Extras rating: 4/5
We say: Boutique label Indicator does it again with a magnificent Blu-ray edition of this classic Brando flick.
The Wild One: Limited Edition, Indicator, All-region BD & R2 DVD, £23
HCC VERDICT: 4/5
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