One of my favourite Toronto bands from the punk era is The Diodes. And recently I discovered that one of my favourite Diodes songs was actually a cover. The Shape of Things To Come was actually written by the well-known songwriting team of Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann, for a film called Wild In The Streets (1968). Reading about the film made me eager to see it, and also to hear the song as it was originally performed. Unfortunately, the film is long out of print and never came out on DVD. But thanks to Suspect Video, I was able to rent an old VHS copy, and this morning, I sat down to watch it.
While the phrase “so bad it’s good” comes to mind, it’s really not even that good. Though I laughed a lot, I’m not sure I was meant to. I’ve never really been a fan of “exploitation” films, so I’m not sure my criticisms will make any sense, but I think this is the sort of film that was made in the 60s to try to cash in on the youth market, while at the same time exposing some of middle-class America’s irrational fears of the youth movement.
Max Frost (Christopher Jones) is a 22 year old rock star, with his own entourage of druggy hippies (including Richard Pryor as drummer “Stanley X” and a guitarist with a hook for a hand!). After lending his support to Senate hopeful Johnny Fergus (Hal Holbrook), he somehow manages to get the voting age lowered to 15, and then has himself elected President. He quickly enacts legislation banishing everyone over the age of 35 to concentration camps where they’re permanently dosed with LSD. Very very weird. Oh, did I mention that Shelly Winters gets to play his shrieking mother?
I think this might be a good movie to watch with some friends while drinking heavily. Otherwise, it makes no sense at all. For instance, I had no idea that America’s youth were so interested in voting. And when they descend on Washington to demand the vote, they seem to have no other political issues to protest. There are no civil rights marches, no anti-war protests, just free love and LSD, babies!
And the songs? Well, let’s just say The Diodes rock.