This is the original motorcycle gang film, and far and away the best.
After being thrown out of a motorcycle event, the Black Rebels biker gang descend on a small American town igniting the passions and bigotry of the local inhabitants.
Johnny, the leader, becomes interested in young waitress Kathie (Mary Murphy), the daughter of the ineffectual town sheriff. But chaos erupts when a rival motorcycle gang arrives in the town.
The film is based on a true story in which a group of 4,000 motorcyclists terrorised the small California town of Hollister in 1947.
What makes this film is Marlon Brando’s performance as Johnny – the moody, mumbling, leather-jacketed leader of the Black Rebels.
“What are you rebelling against, Johnny?” asks a female admirer. “What’ve you got?” snarls Marlon Brando, entering the iconography of the decade.
Underneath Brando’s tough guy act, though, he’s basically a decent fella. Rival gang leader Lee Marvin is just plain mean and the final clash between the two is fun to watch.
The movie was felt to be so alarming when it was first released that it was banned in Britain for 14 years, where it was feared its glamorisation of violent hoodlums would inflame audiences into emulation. It was also believed to have been responsible for starting the popular craze of wearing leather jackets.
Seen today, it is nowhere near as disturbing as it was feted to be.
Jay C Flippen