From its very unique opening title sequence (Pete Seeger walking through the woods with a guitar whilst singing his song "Old Devil Time"), JUNIE MOON promises to be one of those quirky and interesting 60s films (though it technically came out in 1970). The story is about a trio of misfits, fresh out of the hospital, who decide to live together. Junie Moon (Liza Minnelli), was badly scarred on the right side of her face and one of her arms when a deranged date dumped battery acid on her. Warren (Robert Moore), a gay paraplegic, lost the use of his legs when he was shot in a freak accident. And lastly, there's Arthur (Ken Howard) - an epileptic who is prone to "fits" at inconvenient times. So this ragtag bunch finds a fixer upper old shack being rented by a rich old widow who doesn't care what they are and they begin their cohabitation. What starts as a quirky dramedy of course takes some darker turns (as 60s and 70s films often do). I'm not a huge fan of this kind of tonal shifting in these 70s movies, but it's passable here. Thankfully, there's James Coco as a local fish market owner named Mario. He's one of the kinder, gentler characters in a world that is certainly not in favor of our band of misfits. James Coco is one of those actors that had a heyday in the 1970s, but wasn't given many thoughtful dramatic roles like this. I'm not familiar with Robert Morse as much but he plays things a little big here. It's either a fun and sassy gay character or totally offensive, depending on your mood. Also, Fred Williamson shows up for a bit later in the flick and that's always a refreshing surprise. I enjoyed that the movie offers lots of character moments throughout. The narrative meanders a bit, but in a good way. If you're a fan of those offbeat romances and buddy pictures from this period, this one will likely be up your alley. Also, I've decided that "Old Devil Time" is absolutely one of my favorite Pete Seeger songs. Enjoy it below:
One of my weird hang ups is that I have this remarkably extreme adverse reaction to 60s movies of a certain ilk. Specifically I'm talking about those having to do with the counterculture movement of the mid-to-late decade that bred the hippie stereotypes that invaded the movies of that time. Hippies make me crazy. Even though, in theory I agree with some of their liberal notions and politics, I couldn't be more turned off by the self-righteousness with which they are so often depicted in movies. Rarely have there been so many characters of a certain type in so many films whilst remaining as obnoxious as they often were shown to be. Don't get me wrong, I don't hate all movies with hippies. There are even some text book examples of counter-culture cinema that I like very much. THE STRAWBERRY STATEMENT is one of my favorites from back then and it very much goes into territory that usually vexes me. Some great performances save that one for me. And while WILD IN THE STREETS isn't necessarily saved by performances, the presence of Richard Pryor alone gives it a nice bump - in terms of cult cache most certainly.
Right away, the movie starts to get in your face a bit with its philosophies and it's attitude about how the youth of America should be treated. I immediate felt an odd kinship between this film and something like BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS. One is a bit trashier than the other, but they both have a snarky point of view and more than their share of wild storytelling tropes and soap opera moments. WILD IN THE STREETS is certainly waaay more political. One point that is brought up over and over is that the young people (under 25) are the majority and that they have more power than they realize. This is rather prescient in an election year - even so many years after the movie was made. The guru of the film is a character called Max Frost (Christopher Jones). He is a celebrity entertainer/singer/orator that has become "huge with the kids" as they say. After he's asked to perform at a rally for a senator, he ends up running for president and winning by a landslide. After that, things get weirder. The thing that sets this movie apart from some other counter-culture hippie-fests of the same time is the way that it moves into an almost science fiction area by the end and leaves you with a bit of food for thought. It reminds me a bit of a much less funny 60s version of IDIOCRACY for some reason.
WILD IN THE STREETS can be purchased on Blu-ray here: