Inspired by an episode when a mob of youths on motorcycles terrorized a Californian town for an entire evening, this feature is long on suspense, brutality and sadism. Marlon Brando contributes another hard-faced ‘hero’ who never knew love as a boy and is now plainly in need of psychoanalysis.
The young cyclists are a motley mob of jivesters, some carrying their own female cargo. Much giving to showoff antics and mimicry, they also drink beer in vast quantities and incessantly deposit nickels in jukeboxes. Reckless, impudent, cruel and knife-carrying, they break and borrow things and drive motorcycles into and through saloons.
However intolerable and barbarian the cyclists are, nothing they do is as vicious and vindictive as the ‘vigilante’ spirit which develops among the merchants of the village. Big bruisers twice the size of the young cyclists, these adults readily and joyously beat Brando to a pulp and then later try to frame him by their silence for a manslaughter rap.
Picture [from a story by Frank Rooney] was made some time [before its release] and had three titles in succession, Cyclists Raid, The Wild One and Hot Blood. All performances are highly competent. A second band of ruffians comes along later led by a colorful young character named Lee Marvin.
The femme interest is intelligently managed by Mary Murphy. Robert Keith is excellent as the mush-soft village constable. The county sheriff is the nicest guy in the film, and nearly the only one. He’s impersonated with professional sincerity by the old vaudeman Jay C. Flippen.