Wild in the Streets


1h 37m 1968
Wild in the Streets

Brief Synopsis

A young man gains significant political influence as the leader of a counterculture rock band with his rallying cry of voting rights for teenagers.

Film Details

Genre
Comedy
Drama
Political
Adaptation
Release Date
Jan 1968
Premiere Information
New York opening: 29 May 1968
Production Company
American International Productions
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the short story "The Day It All Happened, Baby" by Robert Thom in Esquire (Dec 1966).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 37m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.85 : 1

Synopsis

After destroying the family car with a homemade bomb, 15-year-old Max Flatow takes the $800 he has made selling LSD and sets out on his own. Within 7 years, Max, who has changed his surname to Frost, has become the world's most idolized entertainer; a millionaire, he lives in a lavish Beverly Hills mansion with his girl friend, Sally LeRoy, a former child movie star, and an entourage of young associates. One day the opportunistic Mrs. Flatow sees her lost son on television and forces her husband to join her in attempting a family reunion. When she accidentally kills a child in an automobile accident, however, Max once more completely rejects her. Meanwhile, John Fergus, a liberal California congressman, has decided to ignore the advice of his political mentor, Senator Allbright, and run for the United States Senate by appealing to youth. Although Max consents to perform at a Fergus rally, he doublecrosses the politician by publicly demanding that the voting age be lowered to 14. The demonstrations that follow are so successful that within a month 18 states have given the vote to teenagers. Now determined to gain control of the nation, Max engineers Sally's election to Congress and then, by drugging the legislators with LSD, assures the passage of a bill to eliminate age requirements for office holders. Max runs for president and wins by a landslide. His first official act is to send all citizens over 35 to retirement camps where they are kept on a diet of hallucinogens. Although Max is now apparently all-powerful, there is a hint of things to come when he callously kills a crawfish belonging to two 7-year-old children. As the youngsters look at their dead pet, they vow to put everyone over 10 out of business.

Videos

Movie Clip

Wild In The Streets (1968) - Max's Entourage Narration by the ever-authoritative Paul Frees, introduces the posse for super-rich pop star Max (Christopher Jones), Larry Bishop as Abraham, Kevin Couglin as Billy, Richard Pryor as Stanley, inspiring a song (by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil), early in director Barry Shear’s political-pop oddity from AIP, Wild In The Streets, 1968.
Wild In The Streets (1968) - I'm His Mother! Shelley Winters is the mother, and Bert Freed the father, from whom giant pop star Max Frost (Christopher Jones) ran away many years earlier, and they’ve just had big make-overs after realizing he’s rich and famous, looking to present themselves at a concert, in AIP’s Wild In The Streets, 1968.
Wild In The Streets (1968) - 14 Or Fight! Mega-rich pop star Max (Christopher Jones, with his band, Richard Pryor on drums!) has just barely agreed to appear in support of congressman Fergus (Hal Holbrook), who’s running for senator, because he supports lowering the voting age, and a new idea comes up, in WIld In The Streets, 1968.
Wild In The Streets (1968) - Ronald Reagan Would Look Worse Senator Fergus (Hal Holbrook) hopes Mrs. Flatow (Shelley Winters), mom of pop-star turned politician Max (Christopher Jones), can get him to slow down his government take-over, but she’s tripping, while he, with advisors (Kevin Coughlin, Richard Pryor, Larry Bishop) plans his next move, in Wild In The Streets, 1968.
Wild In The Streets (1968) - Now Known As Max Frost After several vignettes in which young Max grows up in a twisted household to become Christopher Jones, he makes good a threat to blow up his dad’s car then appears as pop star Max Frost, around whom the story will revolve, Barry Shear the director, narration by Paul Frees, in AIP’s Wild In The Streets, 1968.

Film Details

Genre
Comedy
Drama
Political
Adaptation
Release Date
Jan 1968
Premiere Information
New York opening: 29 May 1968
Production Company
American International Productions
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the short story "The Day It All Happened, Baby" by Robert Thom in Esquire (Dec 1966).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 37m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.85 : 1

Award Nominations

Best Editing

1968
Eve Newman

Articles

Wild in the Streets


Samuel Z. Arkoff was a man with a plan, or more specifically, a formula. Making an acronym from his last name, the Arkoff formula was simple: Action, Revolutionary, Killing, Oratory, Fantasy, and Fornication. After all these years, many are still not sure where "Oratory" fits in with Arkoff's movies but the "O" had to stand for something. When his business partner, James Nicholson, formed American International Pictures and made Arkoff the vice president, he knew what he was doing. Arkoff wasn't interested in Oscars or lavish acclaim. He was interested in box office and by repeatedly playing to a youth market, he got it.

When Robert Thom, who'd spent years working on movies aimed at the youth market, wrote Wild in the Streets, a short story about the Baby Boom generation turned revolutionary overlords of their elders, Arkoff and company knew a movie had to be made. A screenplay was quickly churned out by Thom and an offer made to Phil Ochs to star in the lead role of Max Frost, a pop singer idol of the youth of America who takes the country by storm. Ochs promptly turned it down, deciding the whole story was so counter to what the actual counter-culture believed in he couldn't possibly endorse it by going along for the ride. This did not stop anyone else from participating.

Shelley Winters, Richard Pryor, Ed Begley, Hal Holbrook, and in the role of Max Frost, Christopher Jones, all signed on to film the outlandish story with as straight a face as they possibly could. Also included was Millie Perkins, Thom's wife at the time. Wild in the Streets was released to semi-serious reviews by bewildered critics who weren't sure if what they were watching was a parody, an endorsement of youthful revolution, or a cautionary tale against giving teenagers too much power. The movie itself seems to take itself seriously enough, to the point where the audience isn't sure whether to be offended or entertained.

The movie starts off with a young Max Flatow making acid in his parents' basement while his mom (Shelley Winters) wonders why he hates them so much, particularly his dad. The next day he destroys their home and blows up dad's car before heading off to, well, something. The movie doesn't bother to say, it just skips ahead ten years and tells us that now he's a multi-millionaire pop idol adored the world over.

A young senator, Johnny Fergus (Hal Holbrook), comes to the now renamed Max Frost asking for his endorsement. Senator Fergus wants to lower the voting age to 18 (something that actually happened just three years later) and figures he can use Max's popularity to get the amendment passed. Max takes to the stage and advocates for 14 instead, prompting protests and sit-ins until Fergus gets him to agree to 15 if he calls the teenagers off. It's not long after that that Max and his entourage, which includes a young Richard Pryor as his drummer, Stanley X, get an insider in congress, dose the DC water supply with LSD, and get the age requirements for senator, representative, and president all lowered to 14. And, of course, Max gets elected president.

If the plot sounds utterly ridiculous, that's because it is. It's the kind of satirical movie that makes Network look like a subtle, under the radar, gentle critique of television. Wild in the Streets is many things but realistic and measured it is not. But then, if it were, it wouldn't be an American International Pictures movie. And Sam Arkoff wouldn't have made a fortune.

Among the many surprising things in Wild in the Streets is a genuinely good performance by Shelley Winters. Not surprising that she could, of course, she was a great actress. Surprising that she would. Shelley Winters never phoned in a performance in her life and she wasn't about to start with this one. Ed Begley and Hal Holbrook also turn in sound performances in a decidedly unsound movie. Even Christopher Jones, with the very little he's given, does a good job. Perhaps the most surprising thing is Richard Pryor. Already famous for his comedy, he is wasted in a straight role that requires nothing more from him than a few standard line readings to move the plot along. And famed voice talent Paul Frees is on hand to narrate the tale, which must have confused Rocky and Bullwinkle fans to no end.

Wild in the Streets quickly became a cult classic once its day at the theaters was done. Already looking and feeling dated the day it was released, it became a time capsule curiosity for viewers born around or after the time of the movie. A hippy, trippy look at rocking teenagers turned fascist overlords where it's hard to tell if it's an endorsement or an indictment. It probably never mattered to Samuel Z. Arkoff, one way or the other. As long as people paid to see the movie, they could take it any way they wanted.

By Greg Ferrara
Wild In The Streets

Wild in the Streets

Samuel Z. Arkoff was a man with a plan, or more specifically, a formula. Making an acronym from his last name, the Arkoff formula was simple: Action, Revolutionary, Killing, Oratory, Fantasy, and Fornication. After all these years, many are still not sure where "Oratory" fits in with Arkoff's movies but the "O" had to stand for something. When his business partner, James Nicholson, formed American International Pictures and made Arkoff the vice president, he knew what he was doing. Arkoff wasn't interested in Oscars or lavish acclaim. He was interested in box office and by repeatedly playing to a youth market, he got it. When Robert Thom, who'd spent years working on movies aimed at the youth market, wrote Wild in the Streets, a short story about the Baby Boom generation turned revolutionary overlords of their elders, Arkoff and company knew a movie had to be made. A screenplay was quickly churned out by Thom and an offer made to Phil Ochs to star in the lead role of Max Frost, a pop singer idol of the youth of America who takes the country by storm. Ochs promptly turned it down, deciding the whole story was so counter to what the actual counter-culture believed in he couldn't possibly endorse it by going along for the ride. This did not stop anyone else from participating. Shelley Winters, Richard Pryor, Ed Begley, Hal Holbrook, and in the role of Max Frost, Christopher Jones, all signed on to film the outlandish story with as straight a face as they possibly could. Also included was Millie Perkins, Thom's wife at the time. Wild in the Streets was released to semi-serious reviews by bewildered critics who weren't sure if what they were watching was a parody, an endorsement of youthful revolution, or a cautionary tale against giving teenagers too much power. The movie itself seems to take itself seriously enough, to the point where the audience isn't sure whether to be offended or entertained. The movie starts off with a young Max Flatow making acid in his parents' basement while his mom (Shelley Winters) wonders why he hates them so much, particularly his dad. The next day he destroys their home and blows up dad's car before heading off to, well, something. The movie doesn't bother to say, it just skips ahead ten years and tells us that now he's a multi-millionaire pop idol adored the world over. A young senator, Johnny Fergus (Hal Holbrook), comes to the now renamed Max Frost asking for his endorsement. Senator Fergus wants to lower the voting age to 18 (something that actually happened just three years later) and figures he can use Max's popularity to get the amendment passed. Max takes to the stage and advocates for 14 instead, prompting protests and sit-ins until Fergus gets him to agree to 15 if he calls the teenagers off. It's not long after that that Max and his entourage, which includes a young Richard Pryor as his drummer, Stanley X, get an insider in congress, dose the DC water supply with LSD, and get the age requirements for senator, representative, and president all lowered to 14. And, of course, Max gets elected president. If the plot sounds utterly ridiculous, that's because it is. It's the kind of satirical movie that makes Network look like a subtle, under the radar, gentle critique of television. Wild in the Streets is many things but realistic and measured it is not. But then, if it were, it wouldn't be an American International Pictures movie. And Sam Arkoff wouldn't have made a fortune. Among the many surprising things in Wild in the Streets is a genuinely good performance by Shelley Winters. Not surprising that she could, of course, she was a great actress. Surprising that she would. Shelley Winters never phoned in a performance in her life and she wasn't about to start with this one. Ed Begley and Hal Holbrook also turn in sound performances in a decidedly unsound movie. Even Christopher Jones, with the very little he's given, does a good job. Perhaps the most surprising thing is Richard Pryor. Already famous for his comedy, he is wasted in a straight role that requires nothing more from him than a few standard line readings to move the plot along. And famed voice talent Paul Frees is on hand to narrate the tale, which must have confused Rocky and Bullwinkle fans to no end. Wild in the Streets quickly became a cult classic once its day at the theaters was done. Already looking and feeling dated the day it was released, it became a time capsule curiosity for viewers born around or after the time of the movie. A hippy, trippy look at rocking teenagers turned fascist overlords where it's hard to tell if it's an endorsement or an indictment. It probably never mattered to Samuel Z. Arkoff, one way or the other. As long as people paid to see the movie, they could take it any way they wanted. By Greg Ferrara

Richard Pryor (1940-2005)


The scathing, brilliantly insightful African-American comic who proved himself on many occasions to be a highly competent screen actor, died of a heart attack on November 10 at his Encino, California home. He was 65. He had been reclusive for years after he publicly announced he was suffering from multiple sclerosis in 1992.

He was born Richard Thomas Pryor III on December 1, 1940 in Peoria, Illinois. By all accounts, his childhood was a difficult one. His mother was a prostitute and his grandmother ran a brothel. His father was rarely around and when he was, he would physically abuse him. From a young age, Pryor knew that humor was his weapon of choice to cut through all the swath he came across and would confront in his life.

After high school, he enlisted in the Army for a two-year stint (1958-60). When he was discharged (honorably!) he concentrated on stand-up comedy and worked in a series of nightclubs before relocating to New York City in 1963. In 1964, he made his television debut when he was given a slot on the variety program On Broadway Tonight. His routine, though hardly the groundbreaking material we would witness in later years, was very well received, and in the late '60s Pryor found more television work: Toast of the Town, The Wild Wild West, The Mod Squad ; and was cast in a two movies: The Busy Body (1967) with Sid Caesar; and Wild in the Streets (1968) a cartoonish political fantasy about the internment of all American citizens over 30.

Pryor's career really didn't ignite until the '70s. His stand up act became raunchier and more politically motivated as he touched on issued of race, failed relationships, drug addiction, and street crimes. His movie roles became far more captivating in the process: the piano man in Lady Sings the Blues (1972); as a wise-talking hustler in a pair of slick urban thrillers: The Mack (1973) and Uptown Saturday Night (1974); the gregarious Daddy Rich in Car Wash; his first pairing with Gene Wilder as Grover, the car thief who helps stops a runaway train in his first real box office smash Silver Streak (both 1976); and for many critics, his finest dramatic performance as a factory worker on the edge of depression in Paul Schrader's excellent working class drama Blue Collar (1978).

On a personal level, his drug dependency problem worsened, and on June 9, 1980, near tragedy struck when he caught fire while free-basing cocaine. Pryor later admitted that the incident, was, in fact, a suicide attempt, and that his management company created the lie for the press in hopes of protecting him. Fortunately, Pryor had three films in the can that all achieved some level of financial success soon after his setback: another pairing with Gene Wilder in the prison comedy Stir Crazy (1980); a blisteringly funny cameo as God who flips off Andy Kaufman in the warped religious satire In God We Tru$t (1980); an a ex-con helping a social worker (Cicely Tyson) with her foster charges in Bustin' Loose (1981). He capped his recovery with Live on the Sunset Strip (1982), a first-rate documentation of the comic's genius performed in front of a raucous live audience.

In 1983, Pryor signed a $40 million, five-year contract with Columbia Pictures. For many fans and critics, this was the beginning of his downslide. His next few films: The Toy, Superman III (both 1983), and Brewster's Millions (1985) were just tiresome, mediocre comedies. Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life is Calling (1986), was his only attempt at producing, directing, and acting, and the film, which was an ambitious autobiographical account of a his life and career, was a box-office disappointment. He spent the remainder of the '80s in middling fare: Condition Critical (1987), Moving; a third pairing with Gene Wilder in See No Evil, Hear No Evil; and his only teaming with Eddie Murphy in Harlem Nights (1989).

In 1986, Pryor was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a degenerative disease of the nervous system that curtailed both his personal appearances and his gift for physical comedy in his latter films. By the '90s, little was seen of Pryor, but in 1995, he made a courageous comeback on television when he guest starred on Chicago Hope as an embittered multiple sclerosis patient. His performance earned him an Emmy nomination and he was cast in a few more films: Mad Dog Time (1996), Lost Highway (1997), but his physical ailments prohibited him from performing on a regular basis. In 1998, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington gave Pryor the first Mark Twain Prize for humor. It was fitting tribute for a man who had given so much honesty and innovation in the field of comedy. Pryor is survived by his wife, Jennifer Lee; his sons Richard and Steven; and daughters Elizabeth, Rain and Renee.

by Michael T. Toole

Richard Pryor (1940-2005)

The scathing, brilliantly insightful African-American comic who proved himself on many occasions to be a highly competent screen actor, died of a heart attack on November 10 at his Encino, California home. He was 65. He had been reclusive for years after he publicly announced he was suffering from multiple sclerosis in 1992. He was born Richard Thomas Pryor III on December 1, 1940 in Peoria, Illinois. By all accounts, his childhood was a difficult one. His mother was a prostitute and his grandmother ran a brothel. His father was rarely around and when he was, he would physically abuse him. From a young age, Pryor knew that humor was his weapon of choice to cut through all the swath he came across and would confront in his life. After high school, he enlisted in the Army for a two-year stint (1958-60). When he was discharged (honorably!) he concentrated on stand-up comedy and worked in a series of nightclubs before relocating to New York City in 1963. In 1964, he made his television debut when he was given a slot on the variety program On Broadway Tonight. His routine, though hardly the groundbreaking material we would witness in later years, was very well received, and in the late '60s Pryor found more television work: Toast of the Town, The Wild Wild West, The Mod Squad ; and was cast in a two movies: The Busy Body (1967) with Sid Caesar; and Wild in the Streets (1968) a cartoonish political fantasy about the internment of all American citizens over 30. Pryor's career really didn't ignite until the '70s. His stand up act became raunchier and more politically motivated as he touched on issued of race, failed relationships, drug addiction, and street crimes. His movie roles became far more captivating in the process: the piano man in Lady Sings the Blues (1972); as a wise-talking hustler in a pair of slick urban thrillers: The Mack (1973) and Uptown Saturday Night (1974); the gregarious Daddy Rich in Car Wash; his first pairing with Gene Wilder as Grover, the car thief who helps stops a runaway train in his first real box office smash Silver Streak (both 1976); and for many critics, his finest dramatic performance as a factory worker on the edge of depression in Paul Schrader's excellent working class drama Blue Collar (1978). On a personal level, his drug dependency problem worsened, and on June 9, 1980, near tragedy struck when he caught fire while free-basing cocaine. Pryor later admitted that the incident, was, in fact, a suicide attempt, and that his management company created the lie for the press in hopes of protecting him. Fortunately, Pryor had three films in the can that all achieved some level of financial success soon after his setback: another pairing with Gene Wilder in the prison comedy Stir Crazy (1980); a blisteringly funny cameo as God who flips off Andy Kaufman in the warped religious satire In God We Tru$t (1980); an a ex-con helping a social worker (Cicely Tyson) with her foster charges in Bustin' Loose (1981). He capped his recovery with Live on the Sunset Strip (1982), a first-rate documentation of the comic's genius performed in front of a raucous live audience. In 1983, Pryor signed a $40 million, five-year contract with Columbia Pictures. For many fans and critics, this was the beginning of his downslide. His next few films: The Toy, Superman III (both 1983), and Brewster's Millions (1985) were just tiresome, mediocre comedies. Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life is Calling (1986), was his only attempt at producing, directing, and acting, and the film, which was an ambitious autobiographical account of a his life and career, was a box-office disappointment. He spent the remainder of the '80s in middling fare: Condition Critical (1987), Moving; a third pairing with Gene Wilder in See No Evil, Hear No Evil; and his only teaming with Eddie Murphy in Harlem Nights (1989). In 1986, Pryor was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a degenerative disease of the nervous system that curtailed both his personal appearances and his gift for physical comedy in his latter films. By the '90s, little was seen of Pryor, but in 1995, he made a courageous comeback on television when he guest starred on Chicago Hope as an embittered multiple sclerosis patient. His performance earned him an Emmy nomination and he was cast in a few more films: Mad Dog Time (1996), Lost Highway (1997), but his physical ailments prohibited him from performing on a regular basis. In 1998, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington gave Pryor the first Mark Twain Prize for humor. It was fitting tribute for a man who had given so much honesty and innovation in the field of comedy. Pryor is survived by his wife, Jennifer Lee; his sons Richard and Steven; and daughters Elizabeth, Rain and Renee. by Michael T. Toole

Quotes

America's greatest contribution has been to teach the world that getting old is such a drag.
- Sally Leroy

Trivia

The young Max Flatow was originally played by Barry Williams (I), but his scenes were cut after they realized that his eyes were blue, whereas those of Christopher Jones (I) (the older Max Flatow) were brown.

American International Pictures originally offered the role of Max Frost to noted folk singer-songwriter Phil Ochs, who was known at the time to want to branch out into film work. However, after reading the screenplay, Ochs rejected it, stating the story presented the youth counterculture of the 1960s in a badly distorted light.

Notes

Copyright length: 86 min.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Winter January 1, 1968

Released in United States May 1968

Released in United States July 1996

Released in United States Winter January 1, 1968

Released in United States May 1968

Released in United States July 1996 (Shown in New York City (Lighthouse Cinema) July 13-14, 1996.)