Max Flatow is a precocious, social miscreant who has a way with home-made explosives. When he tires of these, he runs away from home only to emerge seven years later as Max Frost, the world's most popular entertainer. When Congressman John Fergus uses Frost as a political ploy to gain the youth vote in his run for the Senate, Frost wills himself into the system, gaining new rights for the young. Eventually, Frost runs for the presidency. Winning in a landslide, he issues his first presidential edict: All oldsters are required to live in "retirement homes" where they are forced to ingest LSD.
Directed by: Barry Shear
. Starring: Shelley Winters
, Christopher Jones
, Diane Varsi
, Hal Holbrook
, Millie Perkins
, Richard Pryor
, Bert Freed
, Kevin Coughlin
, Larry Bishop
, May Ishihara
, Salli Sachse
, Kellie Flanagan
, Don Wyndham
. Music by: Les Baxter
Since I was only in fifth grade at the time of this film's release in 1968, I did not have the unmitigated joy of seeing this on the big screen. In fact, I had only heard rumors of the film's existence until I caught it tonight on one of the Starz channels. (Thank the movie gods for them!) And despite the dated but still delicious grooviness of the then-teen flick, there are shades of relevance today.
The seemingly ridiculous premise: an unbelievably handsome 22-year-old millionaire singing idol (Christopher Jones)--who can make his own LSD!--helps a congressman (Hal Halbrook) become senator on the platform of lowering the voting age to 15, through sheer charisma gathers thousands of youths to rally in both L.A. and D.C., eventually wins the office of U.S. President as a Republican (!) and then forces anyone over 30 into a "paradise camp" to be forever happy on LSD so that they are incapable of causing any more trouble.
To many teens at the time (and even now, I suppose), this idea was not all that ridiculous. The "establishment" was greatly concerned over the growing influence of the babyboomers, who made up over half of the population at that time, and the young people knew it. This film's message of hope for peace and love by removing "old school" approaches to politics, while also offering a great song (which actually hit the charts), attractive actors in up-to-the-minute costumes and a higher-than-usual quality of filming, appealed to the rebellious nature of youth and their demands for a cool movie that they could relate to but that would simultaneously freak out their parents. It made a LOT of money for its day and genre.
The film opens with the rebel-protagonist quickly growing up with overbearing mom Shelley Winters, who chews up scenery like nobody's business. She has hilarious bits throughout the film, perhaps most notably after her acceptance of the "new order" as she extols the merits of LSD therapy! James Dean look-alike Jones intoxicates us with his gorgeous looks and charm, whether singing with his band in clubs or convincing us to go along with his outlandish hope for 14-year-olds to get the vote, since his own businessmanguitarist is 15!
Other highlights of the cast include Holbrook's full-on (dare we say it, mature?) dramatic acting, which contrasts greatly with the laid-back, free-spirit antics of the other young stars of the film, especially Richard Pryor, who assists in spiking the Washington D.C. water supply with LSD! Ed Begley has a couple memorable scenes as a stereotypically crabby and uncooperative senator who eventually finds drug-induced bliss at the over-30 camp, and Army Archie and Dick Clark (!) have cameos. Post-election ugliness and the ending scene with a future child star add ridiculous but poignant twists.
Today, many will see the film as over-the-top and rather campy, a weird period piece from the era of activism but also of often really bad movies. However, those old enough to have been around then will remember not just the drugs and far-out clothes but the counter-culture rumblings of the late 60s. True, this is not high art and certainly not cerebral. But far from being a throw-away film, "Wild In the Streets" remains a funny examination of a time when the demands for social change brought about extremes in actions. The posters on the message boards for this site who are searching for copies of this time capsule gem attest to its lasting appeal.
Review by mwbubelah from the Internet Movie Database.