Movies From the Black Lagoon: Pray for the Wildcats

Movies From the Black Lagoon
Pray for the Wildcats - 1974, Unrated
By Tom Doty

"Mad Men" meets 'Deliverance" in this made for television thriller that pits three morally ambiguous ad execs against a tyrannical client while motorcycling through Mexico.
Here's another argument for bringing 70's TV movies out on DVD. Where else will you get a thriller that features Andy Griffith, William Shatner, Robert Reed, and Angie Dickinson? Add plenty of melodrama, adultery, hippies, and gratuitous 2nd unit motorcycle footage and you have one of the tastiest TV treats you can devour without microwaving.
The story focuses on a trio of working stiffs at an advertising agency. Warren is the top guy but he's no longer hip enough to work the room and the agency is letting him go. He's just passed his physical and purchased a huge life insurance policy on himself. Paul is the second tier guy trying to get his name on the door by putting in so many hours that he drives his sexy wife (Nancy) into Warren's arms. Then there is Terry from the art department. He's not a great schmoozer but he can design a logo and kiss the client's hinder like nobody's business.
Their client happens to be a pompous windbag/entrepreneur named Farragut. He's a captain of industry with an eye for the ladies but way too dependent on his wealth acting as an aphrodisiac. He also suffers from macho posturing, which makes you think he might be compensating for something but we won't go there. When he insists that the ad guys join him on a cycling trip through Baja you just know he will award them the contract only after they have bowed and scraped enough to fuel his titanic ego.
"Titanic" turns out to be the right word for this trip. It isn't long before a food and fuel break leads to trouble for Farragut. Turns out he missed out on the whole "free love" movement and thinks that any woman with a long haired boy friend will be happy to show him the way to paradise. This leads to an altercation with said boyfriend and the ad guys wisely get him out of there.
Later on they pass the couple who are camped out on the beach, and you just know that Farragut will invent a ploy to seek them out. He comes up with an excuse but gets saddled with Terry (who takes sucking up to a new low). Farragut winds up destroying the couple's van when they flee from his advances and Terry manages to talk him into going back to camp.
A police officer appears the next day and informs our band that a young man is dead and his girl friend lies critically injured. He insists that they stay put during the investigation. It doesn't take Warren long to figure out who the culprit was. Getting anyone to stand with him against their client proves useless and we know this will all come down to a battle between Farragut and Warren. The only question is whether this dilemma will be enough to put off Warren off of his own plan to check out permanently .Who cares as long as there is a shot of one guy taking his motorcycle off a mountaintop at full throttle.
This is about as good as cheesy melodrama gets thanks to the powerhouse cast. Griffith gets the meatiest role as Farragut and he hits it out of the park. This character bears none of his trademark charm but Griffith ups the ante by giving him a dead stare that implies the character feels absolutely nothing and is thus capable of anything. Shatner fares well as Warren. He is the conscience of the group and the one you root for despite the fashion disasters he sports throughout the movie (were yellow turtlenecks ever in?). Robert Reed breaks away from his 'Brady Bunch" image here by diving into his role as a self-serving weasel whose moral compass is somewhat shaky. Angie Dickinson looks gorgeous as Nancy but her character is so shallow that you care very little for what happens to her. The only downside here is that one third of the film consists of riding footage but that gives you plenty of time for bathroom breaks should you catch this on commercial television.
Best Line: "Both of them were stark naked. Grabbing each other like monkeys. They were stoned out on drugs. Most hippies are."

Tom Doty occasionally emerges from the Lagoon to check his e-mail and to read to children every Wednesday at 10:30am at Borders in Hagerstown. If you'd like to get a message to him, write to: dotyfox@myactv.net.