Johnny Varron (Jack Nicholson) is a rebellious guy who divides his time between partying, racing cars and generally causing trouble.
When Johnny’s best friend Dave (Robert Bean) decides to give up their rebellious lifestyle for the straight-and-narrow path, Johnny gets angry.
Johnny decides he can handle the situation in one of two ways: either get revenge on his friend, or lure him back into delinquency. So he comes up with a plan to kidnap Daves’s girlfriend, Nancy (Georgianna Carter).
Harvey Berman directs 1960’s The Wild Ride. This film exists in a number of variations — an original black and white version, a shortened black and white version and a colorized mess re-named Velocity with new footage that changes the story a bit. This will be a review of the shortened black and white version, which appears in Mill Creek’s “Sensational Sixties” 50-film set.
The Mill Creek print of the film runs at only about 59 minutes in length, and unfortunately it’s quite slow-moving for a juvenile delinquency film. Things don’t really begin to go sour between Dave and the rest of the group until a little over 20 minutes into the film, and before that point things are relatively calm.
The titular “wild ride” of a car chase doesn’t even occur until about ten minutes prior to the film’s end.
That being said, there is still a bit of fun in this film. The characters use lots of “hip” lingo when they speak. The performances are quite stiff, often making the film feel like a cautionary tale or after school special. There’s not a whole cob of corn to be had here, but there is a decent amount, enough to keep the viewer entertained.
It’s interesting to see Jack Nicholson in such an early role. His performance isn’t as great here as those of his later films, but after all, it was only his second big-screen role. He does manage a performance much more believable than anyone else in the cast, and Johnny’s menacing character set Nicholson up for iconic “bad guy” roles, like that of Jack Torrance in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, released twenty years after this film.
The Wild Ride isn’t a stellar film, nor is it very unique, but it’s a decent watch for fans of delinquency films or those interested in seeing Jack Nicholson’s early work. The score: 3/5