PRAY FOR THE WILDCATS (1974) – That’s Wildcats as in the Baja Wildcats, the name given by the villainous Andy Griffith to himself and his fellow over the hill dirt bikers – William Shatner, Marjoe Gortner and Robert Reed!
Griffith is pure sleaze as Sam Farragut, a wheelin’ and dealin’ tycoon who enjoys throwing his weight around. He’s the biggest client at an ad agency where Shatner, Gortner and Reed are employed, and he threatens to take his business elsewhere unless they join him on his latest whim – a motorcycle ride along the Baja Peninsula.
This bizarre premise sounds like an episode of Bewitched, as in “Stevens, our biggest client insists we ride motorcycles with him to Baja California.” Instead, this is an overwrought made for tv movie from 1974 in which our kitsch cast gets into deadly trouble south of the border.
WARREN SUMMERFIELD – William Shatner, wearing a very odd toupee which looks like it’s either on sideways or wasn’t meant for a human head, portrays this mousey, easily intimidated character who is forced to find inner strength as his ordeal at the hands of Sam Farragut goes along. Shatner starts out as if he’s Shelley Levine from Glengarry Glen Ross but ends as a tubby Captain Kirk taking on Andy Griffith’s Gorn Captain.
PAUL MCILVAIN – Robert Reed IS the up-and-coming man who has his eye on Warren Summerfield’s job and doesn’t suspect his wife is having an affair with Warren. Paul has been neglecting the marital bed due to how driven he is, but given meta knowledge of Robert Reed’s real-life preferences it can’t help but seem that he has other reasons for his failure to perform. Reed always seems like he’s just Mr. Brady having a bad day, even when he callously keeps his mouth shut about two deaths on Andy Griffith’s head.
TERRY MAXON – Marjoe Gortner surprisingly steals the twitchy ham spotlight from its usual suspect William Shatner. Terry makes Summerfield look like a tower of strength and McIlvain look principled as he misses no opportunity to kiss Sam Farragut’s butt. Even turning a blind eye to rape and murder is no big deal to Gortner in his revolting desire to suck up to the ad agency’s big money client.
SAM FARRAGUT – As mentioned above, the usually amiable Andy Griffith is dynamite as a proto-J.R. Ewing type used to geting his own way by throwing money around while oozing insincere good ol’ boy charm. Sam’s attempted sexual assault on a female hippie leads to him causing her death and the death of her boyfriend. Will any of the ad agency boys hold this monster accountable? For his lame dancing if nothing else?
NANCY MCILVAIN – Angie Dickinson plays the wife of Robert Reed’s character who is having an affair with William Shatner’s Warren Summerfield. She is forced to reveal the affair to Summerfield’s wife when she fears Shatner means to kill himself in Mexico in a phony accident so that his wife and children get a big insurance payout.
LILA SUMMERFIELD – Lorraine Gary from Jaws portrays the devoted wife who claims early on that she and her husband keep no secrets from each other with typical soap opera delusion. Yet she doesn’t even know that Warren was fired right before the motor bike trip into Mexico started, a bombshell which he DID share with Nancy McIlvain.
KRISSIE KINCAID – Janet Margolin is the girlfriend of Marjoe Gortner’s slimy character who discovered she is pregnant and is less than thrilled with Marjoe’s squirrely, wormy efforts to sidestep dealing with the issue. The fact that her beau willingly looks the other way when Sam Farragut puts the moves on her at a cookout makes her further disgusted with the Gortmeister General.
CAPTAIN GUITERREZ – John Brascia is good in the role of the Mexican law enforcement officer who suspects that the four American tourists on motor bikes know more than they are letting on about the deaths of the two hippies. There are moments of Deliverance level tension as this no-nonsense lawman dogs our lead characters.
Okay, let’s address the elephant in the room right off the bat. Do we ever achieve Full Shatner in this telefilm? Sadly, no. The Shat is admirably restrained in his performance, even making a “There IS no ‘myself'” monologue convincing rather than spastic.
Marjoe Gortner gives us what would usually be a William Shatner-sized freakout bit in which he drunkenly, desperately tries to draw some attention away from his idol Sam Farragut by making a unilateral announcement that he has decided to get married to Krissie. His manic turn is hilariously bizarre!
Angie Dickinson confesses to Warren’s wife Lila about their affair, which it turns out she had suspected anyway, but she is floored that he told Angie instead of her about getting fired.
Shatner’s Summerfield grows a pair of balls when it looks like Farragut will get away with killing the two hippies and goes mano-a-mano with Andy Griffith in the desert. Griffith’s character gets his in a way that does not incriminate Shatner and his Warren Summerfield decides against killing himself after all.
As the three surviving “Baja Wildcats” return from their Mexican ordeal, they are greeted by their ladies. Shatner and Lorraine Gary reconcile, Angie Dickinson divorces the cold, calculating Robert Reed, and Janet Margolin rejects Marjoe Gortner’s marriage proposal and leaves him.
Pray for the Wildcats is one weirdass little flick. It may have a Grand Slam of kitsch-casting but it falls short in the schlock department. Some of the few laughs come from the way that the big four’s casual shirts look like Star Trek uniforms without the insignia on them.
The movie is also too long. Many made for tv films of the era ran just 75 minutes without the commercials, but Pray for the Wildcats lasts an hour and forty minutes. That is WAY too much time to spend on this lackluster bit of business.
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8 responses to “PRAY FOR THE WILDCATS (1974)”
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Logged, thank you!
I know what you mean. So many famous cast members but such a forgotten film.
Never even heard of it! Thanks for remembering and sharing info about forgotten movies and books.
I’m glad to do it! Thanks for stopping by!