The Wild Ride (1960)

Sure, the first reason to see The Wild Ride (or, unfortunately as it sounds, the ‘re-cut’ Velocity which for some insane reasons extends the story) is for Jack Nicholson. It’s arguably his very first ‘bad-boy’ role in a career with more than enough to go around. He’s still got a long way to go from here, but it’s fun seeing him go practically method about his character Johnny (apparently Nicholson just started with Martin Landau at the time as his teacher), as he tries to sway Robert Bean’s Dave from going the not-hip route with a girl who isn’t part of ‘their scene’ as it were. There’s tension, there’s some fall-out, and in the end there’s some overly high pitched melodrama following a chase down a road. Nearly embarrassing to admit it, but for those who will seek out the movie for that reason, as I did, it’s not that bad (as in *as bad* as some of his other B-movie work like The Terror and Rebel Rousers).

Hell, I’ll even give one-time-only director Harvey Berman some credit: for a picture that’s main dramatic thrust is dictated mostly by the same beef between Biff and the McFly’s in the Back to the Future movies (“What’s wrong? Chicken?” “Nobody calls me chicken!”), the Wild Ride does provide the cheapest thrills necessary with a picture that (thankfully) doesn’t even run an hour’s length of time. It gives a halfway decent race-car sequence, and some nifty music in the end climax (if not, of course, throughout). There’s even an oddly coincidental opening bit to the movie with that of Breathless, also released in 1960, with a rebel and a cop on his trail (albeit this on takes itself seriously, while Godard’s parody).

It’s a silly bit of teens-and-hot-rods exploitation that is still riding out whatever fuel is left from the 50s via the Wild One and James Dean. It’s tender moments are like tender cuts of lamb, and its dialog is as pulpy as a moldy orange. And shame on me, perhaps, for almost liking this diddle of a B-movie; at the least it features something I’ve never seen before in another movie I can think of, which is a guy working at a liquor store asking if the young man Johnny has ID, he says yes, guy asks to see it, and Johnny says a simple ‘No.’