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  Wild Guitar Joke Strummer
Year: 1962
Director: Ray Dennis Steckler
Stars: Arch Hall Jr, Nancy Czar, Arch Hall Sr, Ray Dennis Steckler, Marie Denn, Virginia Broderick, Al Scott, Bill Lloyd, Jonathan Carle, Mike Treibor, Paul Vorhees, Rick Dennis, Carol Flynn, Carolyn Brandt
Genre: Musical, Drama, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: Bud Eagle (Arch Hall Jr), who some would unkindly describe as a hick, roars into Los Angeles on his motorcycle in search of fame and fortune. He is packing his guitar, for his dreams are those of making it in the music business, and after a morning of wandering around seeing the sights the city has to offer, he ends up in a diner wondering how he will pay for lunch. He settles for a fifteen cent doughnut and a cup of coffee, but one of the other patrons, a dancer named Vickie (Nancy Czar), takes pity on him and offers him her sandwich. They strike up an acquaintance that progresses to Vickie taking Bud to see her dancing at a television studio that day, and when one of the performers falls ill, Bud seizes his big chance to replace him.

With a title like Wild Guitar, your expectations will be running to hearing music from the likes of, I dunno, Duane Eddy or Dick Dale, and sad to say your hopes will be cruelly dashed within about one nanosecond of our hero opening his mouth to sing. The rock 'n' roll here is about as safe as it was possible to get in 1962, which is very unadventurous indeed, but you might be anticipating a searing expose of the music scene when Bud enjoys interest immediately after his debut from an unscrupulous manager on the lookout for new talent. This could be what the relationship between Elvis Presley and Colonel Tom Parker may have been like if Elvis wised up to the Colonel's machinations!

It isn't, of course, it's yet another vanity project produced and scripted by film company head Arch Hall Sr for his son to star in, although Arch Sr ensured the juicy role of the devious, cigar-chomping manager was left all to himself. As essayed by Junior, Bud is a gangling, blonde-pompadoured lummox for most of the running time, until he realises why he isn't seeing any of the money he's making anyway. The film is also notable for being the directorial debut of Ray Dennis Steckler, who true to form is cast as one of the characters too, here playing Steak, the manager's right hand man and general heavy: we can tell he's a psychopath because he amuses himself by intently staring at the flame of his lighter rather than listen to Bud's croonings. Actually, he might have had a point.

The manager takes such a hold on Bud's life that he isn't allowed to see Vickie, and she thinks he's rejected her after a quiet word from Steak, but when she's sitting home alone one night, she happens to see Bud on television and he's singing a heartstring-tugging melody called "Vickie". She is struck with newfound love and runs to the TV studio (buses not good enough for her? Perhaps she needed the exercise?) and straight into her sweetheart's arms. This is what makes it dawn on Bud that the manager (who may be insane - he suggests fans of Bud wear eagle's feathers in their hair and ridiculously, they do) does not have his best interests in mind and is treating him like a dancing chicken. When the manager sets up a weirdly-cavorting, noisily-kissing floozie to make it look as if Bud is cheating on Vickie, it's the last straw and a kidnap plot offers the naive singer the opportunity to get his own back. It's not an enormously impressive opus, I'll admit, though it does have its own ramshackle charm - but would have been better with someone talented as the star.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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