Not so much wild as weird, this whatsit from Jack Garfein—his second and final film—never equals the sum of its parts. And what distinguished components: a dazzling opening-title sequence by Saul Bass, a fine score by Aaron Copland (who rarely composed for the screen), lustrous black-and-white cinematography by Eugen Schfftan (shooting in various New York locations)—and Carroll Baker. Those who cherish Baker’s ripe turn as the chatterbox teen bride in Elia Kazan’s Baby Doll (1956) may be puzzled by her near-mute Mary Ann Robinson, the damaged center of Something Wild.
Garfein, married to Baker at the time, cowrote the script with Alex Karmel, adapting it from the latter’s novel Mary Ann. The story is simple enough: Mary Ann is raped while walking home from the subway in her Bronx neighborhood. Unable to tell her neurotic mother (Dunnock, who played Baker’s batty aunt in Baby Doll), she flees to the Lower East Side. She’s saved from throwing herself off the Williamsburg Bridge by an alcoholic mechanic (Kiss Me Deadly’s Meeker), who essentially holds her captive in his grim basement apartment. Several factors prevent Something Wild from being great—the torpid pacing, histrionic Actors Studio--style outbursts. But it’s the ridiculous final act that will make Baker fans especially nostalgic for Baby Doll Meighan’s feistiness. (Opens Fri; IFC Center.) — Melissa Anderson