Something Wild: Melodrama Starring Carroll Baker

Jack Garfein’s “Something Wild” is a rather pretentious melodrama about a rape victim who goes through hell after suffering a brutal assault.

Grade: C+ (** out of *****)

Something Wild
Something Wild (1961) poster advertisement.jpg

Promotional poster

Carroll Baker, who was married to Garfein at the time, plays Mary Ann, a young middle-class New Yorker, who leaves her home and family (her mother is played by Mildred Dunnock) begin wandering in the dark and mean streets of Manhattan.

She feels isolated and lonely even when she is surrounded by people. On the verge of suicide, about to jump from a bridge, she is saved by a seemingly kind garage mechanic named Mike (Ralph Meeker).

Mike befriends the self-destructive woman, offering her a shelter at his home. Soon, however, it becomes a prison, where she is held against her wish. Or is she? Mary Ann doubts whether he is a friend or a foe, and to what extent she can really trust him, but she stays.

One night, Mike proposes to Mary Ann and she rejects him, saying she just cannot. She reveals to Mike that she was the one who blinded him in one eye, but Mike still insists he needs her.

When Mary Ann discovers the door unlocked, she leaves, walking through the city and sleeping in Central Park. She later returns to Mike’s apartment, shocking the man who wonders what’s going on. “I came for you,” she simply says.

She writes her mother, who comes to the apartment and is shocked to realize that Mary Ann has married Mike and is pregnant–it’s unclear whether it’s by Mike or the rape . Her mother insists that she come home, while Mary Ann insists that this shabby flat is her new real home.

A two-handler, this intimate, claustrophobic drama feels like a theatrical exercise for two good, Method-trained thespians.

But as director, Garfein seems to know little about the movie medium and he stumbles badly with the pacing, lingering over his actors’ faces.

The movie’s running time–112 minutes–is  way too long for the little melodrama that it relates.

Even so, it’s worth seeing for Carrol Baker’s performance in a tough role.

Of Similar Interest (Intertextuality)

The film was made several years before Wyler’s “The Collector” (1965) and Polanski’s “Repulsion” (1966), two better films that bear thematic resemblance in their focus on a single troubled woman, entrapped by either inner and/or outer forces.

The only remarkable element, which elevates this theatrical melodrama, is the evocative score by the legendary American composer, Aaron Copeland.


United Artists
Directed by Jack Garfein
Produced by George Justin
Written by Jack Garfein and Alex Karmel, based on Mary Ann by Alex Karmel
Music by Aaron Copland
Cinematography Eugen Schüfftan (black and white)
Edited by Carl Lerner

Production company: Prometheus Enterprises Inc.

Distributed by United Artists

Release date: December 20, 1961

Running time: 112 minutes
Budget Under $1 million

Carroll Baker as Mary Ann Robinson
Ralph Meeker as Mike
Mildred Dunnock as Mrs. Gates
Jean Stapleton as Shirley Johnson
Doris Roberts as Mary Ann’s co-worker
Martin Kosleck as Landlord
Clifton James as Detective Bogart
George L. Smith as Store Manager