Pray for the Wildcats (1974)
What do you get when you throw together three of TV’s most famous leading men (Andy Griffith, William Shatner and Robert Reed) and one former child evangelist (Marjoe Gortner)? You get the bizarre and unintentionally funny “ABC Movie of the Week,” Pray for the Wildcats.
Griffith is Sam Farragut, a slippery, manipulative business man. Shatner, Reed and Gortner are members of an ad agency where Farragut is their biggest client. Farragut likes things done his way and no other, so he threatens to take his company’s ad account elsewhere unless Captain Kirk, Mr. Brady and Akton go on a crazy motorcycle ride through Baja, Mexico. Why? Cuz they’re MEN, dammit!. So they all dress up in the latest moto-cross fashions, where they all wear single color (yellow, red, blue), long-sleeve pajama-like shirts with black collars…WAITASECOND! THEY’RE WEARING STAR TREK UNIFORMS! (I hope that irony wasn’t lost on the second-billed Shatner.)
This movie has long - and I mean long - boring shots of the guys riding around, across and through the most boring of terrain which really doesn’t appear to be Baja, just southeastern California. You got your helicopter shots of them riding. You got your camera pointed at the wheel shots. You got your camera mounted on the handle bars shots. Shots of them riding up hills. Shots of them riding down hills. Shots of them riding to the left. Shots of them riding to the right. At least 30 minutes of this 90 minute movie is fucking motorcycle riding shots!
So, what’s the story? Well, Andy Griffith is basically a bully, and the ad agency guys are the other kids on the playground that he likes to push around (his Farragut Industries logo is an eagle with its claws coming right at you like a 3D nightmare). The only nice thing Griffith does is give each of them a leather jacket with “Wildcats” embroidered on the front. Aside from that, there’s some soap opera-ish nonsense involving Shatner’s character having an affair with Reed’s wife, played by Angie Dickinson, and Gortner’s girlfriend, Janet Margolin, the cute chick from one of the Gene Roddenberry-produced “Dylan Hunt” TV movies, tells him she’s pregnant. Oh, and Shatner is somehow FIRED from the agency, but he’s still working on the Farragut account -- in the 1970s it’s apparently a long, slow three month process to fire someone, which none of us watching could figure out. He’s so distraught at losing his job, with his kids going to an expensive private school, his Leave It To Beaver-ish wife, Lorraine Gary, in pearls and heels, keeps going on about re-doing the living room, and, OMG the cost, and I CAN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE! I’M GONNA GO ON THIS STUPID BAJA BIKE TRIP AND KILL MYSELF, SO MY WIFE CAN GET THE DAMN INSURANCE MONEY! KHAAAAANNNNN!
They get to some Mexican watering hole where the locals actually wear sombreros (yes, sombreros) and Andy Griffith tries to get jiggy with a hot blond hippie chick in REALLY tight pants vacationing (actually she was gyrating) there with her boyfriend. This is truly a nightmare inducing scene, as the tanned, gritty, perpetually grinning Griffith attempts to wear the chick like a coat on the dance floor which causes some consternation on the part of her bf. Griffith goes ape on the dude until Shatner steps in and saves the day in heroic Captain Kirk fashion.
Long story short, Griffith and Gortner encounter the girl and her boyfriend again. When Griffith attempts to make a time-share deal for the girl, he and the bf get into a fight that ends with Griffith sabotaging the hippies' giant hulking truck (really, it’s a monster vehicle). Later on we learn that the boyfriend died while trying to get help when his truck wouldn't start (did he walk in a circle or what) and the girl was bitten by a snake (the snake: “did you SEE those tight jeans she was wearing? I HAD to bite her!”). Griffith of course bullies Marjoe into keeping quiet (if that’s even possible for the jittery tweaker). William Shatner wants to go to the authorities after he learns what happened to the girl and guy. Robert Reed is too placid, afraid to make waves, which is why his wife Angie Dickinson wandered into Shatner’s pudgy arms.
Griffith and Shatner, or rather their stunt doubles, get into a pretty good motorcycle chase, leading them to a cliffside where Griffith and his cycle go SPLAT AND KA-BOOM! Shatner and the boys make it back to the good old U. S. of A. with a matchbox containing what’s left of Andy Griffth. William Shatner has gone through this Baja hell and become…a man again. However, Robert Reed and Marjoe Gortner come out unchanged – they will always bend to the will of an Andy Griffith-type. You half expect Robert Reed to deliver, in Mr. Brady fashion, the story's moral at the end: "well kids I hope this taught you a lesson that coveting your friend and partner's wife is wrong, and also that working for a sadist like Andy Griffith will only compromise your morals in the end. Now who's up for ice cream?"
Robert Reed looked like he walked right off the set of The Brady Bunch and jumped on a motorcycle to do this movie. Andy Griffith prepared for it by getting a tan and polishing his teeth. Marjoe Gortner just looked in a mirror and freaked out at his own image (“you laughin’ at me, huh, spittin’?”). William Shatner looked the roughest, and I don’t mean that in a good way. This was still five years before Star Trek -The Motion Picture and he looked quite puffy, sporting a few extra pounds, and his choppy toupee really stood out against his gray sideburns. There were a few moments when Captain Kirk crept into his performance, which in this movie was a good thing.
This movie had some of the strangest music I’ve ever heard, ranging from typical 1970s sort of dramatic music filler, to wakkachika-wakkachika-wakkachika guitars, to the weirdest cheap horror movie organ music, which was mainly used for Shatner’s character. One of the funniest things they did was use voiceovers as a character is riding along and recalls their troubles. Sometimes they’d have a scene and just a few mintues later the characters are riding around and we hear that same dialogue repeated as the characters mull their fate. I mean we literally JUST HEARD THAT STUFF – it’s as if the scene were played twice. We as the audience can remember their problems; we don’t have to get hit over the head with them.
Hitting you over the head is what Pray for the Wildcats is all about. It did, and we did. Amen.
ps: "Voveo Ferus Cattus" is Pray for the Wildcats in Latin!