Pray For the Wildcats (1974)
Throughout the seventies the weekly television movie was in full swing and commonly starred aging film stars or in cases like this film, familiar television personalities.
For this surprisingly solid feature we get four very well known actors from the small screen. Top billed is likable Andy Griffith joined by William Shatner, Robert Reed and the always stunning Angie Dickinson.
Now it’s time to turn things upside down. Andy Griffith is far from lovable this time out as he bullies 3 ad executives into a motorcycle trip down below the border into Mexico. Over their heads he holds the riches that come with winning a contract to doing business with him.
Shatner is very restrained here and turns in some solid work. No room for parodying his style this time out. His character is burned out and headed towards becoming a casualty in the cost cutting world of big business.
Robert Reed aka Mike Brady is the steady lifer who may finally move up the latter should the axe fall on Shatner. Our fourth rider is Marjoe Gortner who is the hot young executive on the rise easily falling under Griffith’s spell.
Right from the outset Andy is a real S.O.B. who pushes and needles Shatner into joining the trip and once over the border leads the group into dangerous territory including bar room fisticuffs with a young hippie who happens to have a beautiful blonde girlfriend. Before we know it, Andy has designs on her and will go to any lengths to get his hands on what he desires.
Angie Dickinson and Lorraine Gary are the wives of Reed and Shatner and are not overly impressed with the scenario that Griffith has imposed upon their hubbies. To add a little spice to the proceedings, Angie isn’t above sleeping around.
The script here allows all four of our actors room to create characters that are fleshed out and believable. Each actor turns in a solid performance with the normally laid back Griffith chewing it up for a change which in turn allows Shatner the opportunity to underplay his part. Something he isn’t exactly known for.
The film has a definite “Deliverance” flavor and it is hard not to chuckle at the Star Trek like shirts the gang are wearing. All they need to complete the look would be the Trek logo stitched on.
Overall this is way better film than is to be expected. I really like the ending and where it leaves each character as they confront their demons and where there life is leading them.
Griffith would play more than one villain after Mayberry. He made for a nasty racial killer opposite Johnny Cash in Murder In Coweta County in 1983. Shatner and Dickinson appeared opposite each other three times in this same year. Along with this film they starred in Big Bad Mama where they appeared together in a very steamy scene that was popular on late night tv as well as having Shatner guest on an episode of Police Woman.
I recall seeing this film years ago before the tele film all but disappeared. So I was pleasantly surprised to see it turn up in a bargain bin pack of films called 8 Movies For the Man Cave!