An obscure blast from the past, Something Wild is a narrative precursor to Roman Polanski’s Repulsion. Oddly, it was also made by a Holocaust survivor: Czech-born Jack Garfein, who cast then-wife Carroll Baker as a blonde who goes mad after being raped on her way home from school. The opening title sequence by Saul Bass is a perverse explosion of geometric images and graphic matches that announces the hustle-and-bustle of a scorching New York City day, the sun hanging from the sky like a sunnyside-up egg. This inspired madness carries over to much of the film, which tiptoes alongside its main character as if afraid of the dark. When a paper cup crosses the shadow cast by a hanging chain, Mary Ann (Baker) is sucked into the bushes by a sweaty rapist, and after thrashing her way home, the girl will negotiate her parents’ creaky staircase as if it were a slide, locking herself in the bathroom in order to slice her clothing and flush the bits down the toilet. On her back, a symbol: a bruise in the shape of a forked stick. Cue Mary Anne’s obsession with water, which proves to be a salve for nothing—certainly not the multi-culti “dirt” her batshit-crazy mother (Mildred Dunnock) squawks about. A melo-noir with wildly campy outbursts, Something Wild turns serious and collapses on its delicious self after the James Joyce-reading Mary Anne gets a job at a five-and-dime and moves into an apartment next door to Edith Bunker. When she tries to jump from a bridge, Creepy meets Creepier (Ralph Meeker), who takes her back to his apartment and locks her inside. The drama that ensues not only suggests a deleted provocation from Arthur Miller’s A View from a Bridge but also constitutes a feminist nightmare. Thankfully, the sight of a drunken Jean Stapleton drenching a barely-legal fuck toy in liquor is a much easier sight to wrap your head around.
- United Artists
- 112 min
- Jack Garfein
- Jack Garfein, Alex Karmel
- Carroll Baker, Ralph Meeker, Mildred Dunnock, Jean Stapleton, Martin Kosleck, Charles Watts, Clifton James, George L. Smith, Doris Roberts, Ken Chapin, Ginny Baker, Tanya Lopert
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