Something Wild (1961 film)

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Something Wild
Something Wild.jpg
Original poster art
Directed by Jack Garfein
Produced by George Justin
Written by Jack Garfein
Alex Karmel (also novel, "Mary Ann" )
Starring Carroll Baker
Ralph Meeker
Mildred Dunnock
Jean Stapleton
Martin Kosleck
Charles Watts
Clifton James
Music by Aaron Copland
Cinematography Eugen Schüfftan
Edited by Carl Lerner
Distributed by United Artists
Release date(s) December 23, 1961
Running time 112 minutes
Language English

Something Wild is an 1961 independent drama film directed by Jack Garfein and starring Carroll Baker, Ralph Meeker and Mildred Dunnock. The film follows a young New York City college student (Baker) who, after being brutally raped, is taken in and held captive by a mechanic (Meeker) who witnessed her suicide attempt on the Manhattan Bridge.

Adapted from the novel Mary Ann by Alex Karmel, the film violated a number of Hollywood conventions and taboos by showing an on-screen rape and brief nudity. The film featured a musical score by Aaron Copland and was filmed on location in New York City, which was rare at the time. Director Jack Garfein was married to Carroll Baker when the movie was filmed. The director of photography, Eugen Schüfftan, was a noted German cinematographer and inventor of the Schüfftan process, who won the Academy Award for Best Cinematography the following year for The Hustler.

Referred to as "a lost indie classic", the film was screened at the IFC Center in New York in 2007, and was released on DVD by MGM through their limited edition series in December 2011 in celebration of the film's 50th anniversary.

Plot summary[edit]

Mary Ann Robinson, a teenage girl attending college in New York City, is brutally raped while walking in a park.

Traumatized by the experience, Mary Ann washes away all the evidence and destroys her clothing. She hides the rape from her mother and stepfather, with whom she has a distant relationship.

Mary Ann tries to continue living her normal life, unsuccessfully. She takes the subway to school and faints during the crush of people. That results in the police taking her home, which upsets her prim and unsympathetic mother, played by Mildred Dunnock.

The rape continues to haunt Mary Ann. She leaves school abruptly and walks downtown, through Harlem and Times Square, down to the Lower East Side. She rents a room from a sinister landlord (Martin Kosleck), who overcharges her.

She takes a job at a five-and-dime store and her coworkers dislike her because she is distant and unfriendly. Her crude, promiscuous neighbor at the rooming house (Jean Stapleton) is rebuffed when she tries to be friendly.

At the end of her tether, Mary Ann walks across the Manhattan Bridge and almost jumps in the East River when she is stopped by a mechanic, Mike (Ralph Meeker). At first he seems to be a knight in shining armor. She decides to stay with him. But that night he comes home drunk, tries to attack her, and Mary Ann kicks him in the eye. The following morning he has no recollection of that, but his eye is badly hurt and has to be removed.

Mike now says that he wants Mary Ann to stay there, saying "I like the way you look here." She wants to leave but he refuses to let her go. He holds her captive in the apartment for months, even though she refuses to have anything to do with him.

One day Mary Ann reveals to Mike that it was she who blinded him in one eye. Mike still insists he loves her. Soon Mary Ann finds that Mike has left the door unlocked. Mary Ann leaves, walks through the city, sleeps in Central Park. Her mood greatly improves, and she sees how wonderful life is. She goes back to the apartment and decides to stay with Mike, voluntarily (a possibility of this change of heart could be Stockholm syndrome). She marries Mike and rebuffs her mother's attempt to get her to return home.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

The score for the 1961 film was by the distinguished American composer Aaron Copland, who in 1964 re-used some of its themes in his symphonic work "Music For a Great City." The original film score, taken from private session recordings preserved by the director, was released on CD in 2003.

Originally, Morton Feldman was commissioned to compose the score for the film, but when the director heard the music, he promptly withdrew his commission, opting to enlist Aaron Copland instead. The reaction of the baffled director was said to be, "My wife is being raped and you write celesta music?"[1]

The opening title sequence was an early live action title sequence created by Saul Bass.

Critical reception[edit]

The movie received an uneven critical response. Jonas Mekas wrote in Film Quarterly that the film was the "most interesting American film of the quarter; it may become the most underestimated film of the year."

However, New York Times critic Bosley Crowther said that it was "quite exhausting to sit through that ordeal in the apartment." and that "it is not too satisfying, because it isn't quite credible and the symbolic meaning (if there is one) is beyond our grasp."

The movie was not a commercial success, and was Jack Garfein's final project as a movie director.

The film was shown at New York's IFC Center in early 2007, billed as a "lost indie film classic." It was released on DVD as part of the MGM Limited Edition Collection in December 2011.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Wilson, Peter Niklas, Canvasses and time canvasses: Comments on Morton Feldman's film music, retrieved July 17, 2012 

External links[edit]