The Wild One

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Details At A Glance

Category Drama Theatrical Trailer(s) Yes, 1
Other Trailer(s) None
Year Released 1953 Commentary Tracks None
Running Time 75:57  Other Extras Filmographies-Cast 
RSDL/Flipper No/No
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region 2,4 Director Laslo Benedek

Columbia TriStar
Starring Marlon Brando
Mary Murphy
Lee Marvin
Robert Keith
Jay C Flippen
RRP $34.95 Music Leith Stevens

Pan & Scan/Full Frame Pan & Scan MPEG None 
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None Dolby Digital 2.0
16x9 Enhancement No Soundtrack Languages English (Dolby Digital 2.0, 384 Kb/s)
French (Dolby Digital 2.0, 384 Kb/s)
German (Dolby Digital 2.0, 384 Kb/s)
Italian (Dolby Digital 2.0, 384 Kb/s)
Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0, 384 Kb/s) 
Theatrical Aspect Ratio ?
Macrovision Yes Smoking Yes
Subtitles English
Annoying Product Placement No

Plot Synopsis

    The Wild One has achieved something approaching legendary status, predominantly due the presence of Marlon Brando as Johnny in the lead role.

    For those unfamiliar with the film, this is the story of Johnny and his motorcycle gang descending upon a small town in California looking for action. The gang is not well received in general by the locals when they cause trouble with a motor vehicle accident whilst dragging to the nearest bar. Naturally, the bar is the focus of much activity, but Johnny falls for a local girl, Kathie (Mary Murphy) who works at the local cafe and also happens to be the daughter of the local cop. The goings on of the gang incite trouble amongst the locals, especially after a fight in the street between Johnny and Chino (Lee Marvin), when Chino is arrested for hitting a local businessman whilst no action is taken against the local for running over a biker. One thing leads to another and you end up with vigilante groups seeking out Johnny to teach him a lesson, and what starts out as a few people having a raucous beer ends up with one man dead and Johnny accused of the death.

    Which took as long to write as the film lasts! In light of the changes over the past 45 years, it has to be said that this film has not suffered well at the hands of time. Banned in many cinemas upon release because of the likely element it would attract, and banned in the United Kingdom for fourteen years for fear of it inciting youths to riot, it has to be said that this is really tame stuff nowadays. Such graphic violence as a few motorcyclists having a few beers in the local bar with a few local ladies is hardly the stuff of mass mayhem and the end of civilization as we know it. But in 1953 this was really heady stuff! And the start of the Brando legend, the inarticulate mumbling that reached its climax in the 1970's and 1980's.

    As a piece of film history, it has to be admired but nowadays the film is so dated that this is hardly gripping stuff at all.

Transfer Quality


    Since this was made in 1953, certain allowances have to be made with respect of the quality on offer here.

    The transfer is presented in Pan & Scan format.

    In general, the transfer is fairly sharp, although there are a number of sequences where soft focus has been used (most notably whenever Mary Murphy is on screen). This is how the film was originally shot I believe and is not a mastering problem in the transfer. Shadow detail is quite exceptional given the age of the film, but it needs to be borne in mind that this is black and white which in my view inherently makes the shadow detail better than in a colour film. Overall, this would have to be considered a quite vibrant transfer.

    Obviously with a black and white film, colours are not an issue. However, the need for quality film development in black and white films is imperative and from what we have on offer here, this is a very good example. Whilst lacking the ultimate depth in the extreme black and white, the gradation of the grey scale is most convincing.

    There were no MPEG artefacts noted. Video artefacts comprised some aliasing (notably 38:10) and some colouration of the video in the form of a green line down the extreme left hand side of the picture (most notably around 46:30). Whilst these do not overly interfere with the film, the sudden green is noticeable. There is also some bleed in the headlights of the motorcycles between 39:45 and 40:00; this may be a problem with the original film and not a mastering issue. Film artefacts are quite prevalent throughout the film, but this is expected in a film of this age and are not especially intrusive. There are a number of jumps in the film, but these are again problems with the original film and not mastering problems.


    The audio transfer is probably as good as we can get from a mono source, but mercifully is very clean with no hiss at all.

    There are five audio tracks on the DVD. The default is an English Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack, the other options all being Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtracks: French, German, Italian and Spanish. Since Marlon Brando is difficult enough to understand in English as it is, I felt a little reticent to try anything other than the default soundtrack.

    The dialogue was clear and easy to understand at all times.

    Audio sync was not a problem with the transfer at all..

    The music score by Leith Stevens added little to the film and is very unimaginative. In its way it must have been effective, as it left little of an impression upon me.

    The surround channels did not seem to be used at all during the film and it would seem that this is a very straight left/right mastering. Since the original source is obviously mono, there is not too much that we could expect in this regard however.

    You will not need a subwoofer to listen to this film at all, as it is completely superfluous in the soundtrack.


    To be honest, what could we realistically expect as extras to a 45 year old film? There is little on offer here at all.


    A very plain menu, lacking any form of enhancement whatsoever.

Theatrical trailer

    The only extra of any note and is actually of quite good quality considering the vintage. It is presented full frame, with a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. A very interesting look at the way the promotion of films has changed over the years, this barely gives anything away about the film. The trailer is subtitled in German, French, Dutch, Spanish and Italian.

Photo Gallery

    If you are expecting a lot here, then you will be disappointed. This comprises six completely unannotated photographs which were presumably taken during filming, or for promotional purposes later. Of dubious value and hardly worth the effort.


   Restricted to Marlon Brando, Mary Murphy and Lee Marvin, these are reasonably detailed but are hardly adequate compensation for a film of this reputed stature.

R4 vs R1

    The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on;     Given that the photo gallery is hardly indispensable, both versions have to be considered equally good, and there is no compelling reason to prefer one over the other.


    Overall, the reputation of the film over-stimulated my expectations somewhat, although it would be wrong to say that it is a disappointing film as there is much to admire here especially for the film buff.

    The overall video quality is very good given the age of the film.

    The audio quality is quite good for a film of this age.

    The extras were a little disappointing, and it is a pity that the opportunity to get a film historian to chat about the film's importance was not taken, as this would have been a real bonus.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ian Morris
30th August 1999

Review Equipment
DVD Pioneer DV-515; S-video output
Display Sony Trinitron Wega 84cm
Audio Decoder Built in
Amplification Yamaha RXV-795
Speakers Energy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL