For, Friday, March 13, 2015

When you think of biker flicks, what comes to mind?

The 1969 classic “Easy Rider,” perhaps, with Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper and Jack Nicholson?

Or maybe the earlier ’60s teen gang films of Roger Corman that also featured Fonda and Nicholson, as well as Bruce Dern and Adam Roarke — and Nancy Sinatra — all blowing through town on their hogs, causing trouble and battling rival gangs.

But the first bad-boy biker was Marlon Brando, two years after “A Streetcar Named Desire” made him an A-list movie star and nearly a decade before Corman made biker-gang movies a genre all their own.


“The Wild One” (1953, b/w) features Brando clad in a black leather jacket, with a cap titled to one side, dark sunglasses and long sideburns — an image that became an icon overnight.

And that image was helped along by his famous exchange with a girl in a small-town diner: She asks, “What are you rebelling against, Johnny?” He replies, “Whaddaya got?”

Johnny is the leader of the Black Rebels Motorcycle Club, and they are first seen riding through a small California town where a motorcycle race is to take place. After they stir up trouble and are chased off, they move on to an even smaller berg, where the law is just one old man who’s too reticent to put a stop to their shenanigans.


Eventually things escalate, especially when a rival gang (led by Lee Marvin) comes to town. And as things get out of hand, with damage and vandalism running rampant — and after the police chief’s daughter is assumed to have been kidnapped — the townsfolk have had enough and they form a vigilante mob.

But hey, Johnny’s not such a bad guy, really. After all, he’s played by Marlon Brando.

Some of the elements here are dated, to be sure, but the film still has power, and the performances are all terrific, led by Brando when he was the big screen’s bright new force of nature.

“The Wild One” is on Blu-ray for the first time at a genuinely cut-rate price on the discount Mill Creek label. And it’s definitely worth checking out.