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Wild Guitar/Review

From The Grindhouse Cinema Database

< Wild Guitar

The sounds of rockabilly guitar twang as young Bud Eagle (Arch Hall Jr) drives his chopper through the country hills. Bud is a singer-songwriter who is headed to the capital of music making: Los Angeles California. Being just a hick from the sticks of Spearfish, South Dakota he's not aware of what lies ahead of him.

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As soon as Bud gets to town he runs into trouble as he drops his suitcase and almost gets hit by a car. After looking at the sights like Dino's Lodge and Mann's Chinese theater he stops in for a bite at a small diner called Marge's Koffee Kup Cafe. There he meets a young gal named Vicki (Nancy Czar) who offers him her plate of eats seeing that he's hungry and has no cash. It turns out Vicki is a real groovy go go dancer on a local TV program. When one of the acts that is scheduled to appear bails because he's sick, Bud is offered a chance to take his place and proves to be a surprising hit with the audience. This gets him the notice of Mike McAuley (Arch Hall Sr as William Watters), a veteran of the business. Bud is introduced to Mike by his weasely assistant "Steak" (Ray Dennis Steckler as Cash Flagg), someone who is paid to keep an eye on Bud and entice him with promises of flashy perks like a swanky pad, flashy duds and cute girls.

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Bud is an overnight sensation but as he gets further into the lifestyle of being a teen idol, he finds that his original ideas of being an artist have been twisted into something he finds unfulfilling. He is simply a virtual moneymaking puppet for Mike and falls prey to all the schemes in the name of exploitation. While Bud deals with the whirlwind of being a wild success, his sweet relationship with Vicki also is ruined and he's got to find a way out of Mike's grip and be a normal person again.

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What I love most about Wild Guitar is the direct style of storytelling, the fun music and colorful cast of characters. Arch Hall Jr is excellent as Bud with his innocent outlook on life. The film is also a universal story anyone can relate to with Bud representing every aspiring artist (musician, actor etc) that goes out to Hollywood (or any big city) to seek fame and fortune. Its also a nice morality tale that lets us see the highs and lows of what its like being famous and under the scrutiny of the public. The acting may come across as amateurish and in some ways it is, but there is also an inherant charm and innocence to it that makes it a highly enjoyable (not to mention rewatchable) little gem. One of the main highlights is of course the musical performances by Arch featuring classics like "Twist Fever" and "Vicki" among others. While Wild Guitar showed the bright side of Arch Hall Jr his follow up The Sadist gave him the chance to play the other side of the coin and become a truly psychotic fiend. Watching these films back to back gives you an idea of just how interesting he could be as an actor. They are my two favorite performances by him when he was making movies.

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Wild Guitar was produced for only $30,000 and was released in 1962. The screenplay was written by Arch Hall, Sr. (as Nicholas Merriwether), Joe Thomas, and Bob Wehling. Arch's dad proved to be quite an ace at low budget filmmaking and did well from them. The musical director for Wild Guitar was a high school friend of Arch Hall Jr. named Alan O'Day, who later had several #1 pop hits in the 1970s. For a modest B-movie Wild Guitar is truly a great achievement that has stood the test of time and is just as relevant today as it was back then.

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Peter Roberts is the co-founder/editor-in-chief of the Grindhouse Cinema Database (GCDb) and contributor to the GCDb's sister site Furious Cinema. He is an avid film fan that has been immersed in the world of entertainment and pop culture his entire life.
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