Original Air Date: January 23rd, 1974
Can you dig it, man? I mean, can you?
Pray for the Wildcats is one of those crazy made for TV movies that eerily comes across as more grindhouse-y, more psychedelic than you’d think any small screen could handle. And check this out - it's got William Shatner, Robert Reed, Marjoe Gortner and Andy Griffith all playing lost souls who take a motorbike trip across the desert together. That's all kinds of groovy!
Shatner, Reed and Gortner work for an advertising agency desperate to get Sam Farragut's (Andy Griffith) business. Oh, they get the business alright, but not the kind you can put on the books, you dig? Each man is dealing with his own demons and has a lot riding on getting Farragut to sign on. Reed is struggling with his swingin' housewife, Gortner is trying to be a cool cat in a world of dirty deals and Shatner is a dedicated business man who plans on killing himself during the trip. Farragut's take no prisoners attitude brings out the best and the worst in these partners.
Oddly (or not so oddly, depending), this film has a lot of motorcycle riding filler moments. I say odd because storywise this film seems anything but sparse. There are lots of layers to these characters as their scenarios keep getting more and more dangerous and deadly. Their real personalities are revealed, which some aren't so happy about.
Griffith, who made the world fall in love with him as amiable Sheriff Andy on the Andy Griffith Show, wreaks havoc as the bad guy, something he did quite often in made for TV movies. Check out his take on The Most Dangerous Game in Savages and his portrayal as a down on his luck superintendent in The Strangers in 7A. Both performances are nothing short of amazing. Yeah, yeah, yeah, you're all "But he did that in A Face in the Crowd in the 50s"... but this is 70s Made for TV, man! As Angie Dickinson would say in Pray, "Get it together, lah-ver!"
Oh yeah, didn't I mention Angie Dickinson is in this? Well, she is and she's fabulous. Every line delivery is given with such slang-filled aplomb I'm surprised she could say most of her lines with a straight face. Lorraine Gary from Jaws plays Shatner's plain Jane wife.
At one point, Griffin says one of my favorite pieces of dialog. "I'm kind of a hippie myself. I'm a hippie with money. Old fashion rules about what is right and wrong just hang loose and you let it all happen, ain't that right?" I love this line because it kind of sums up the struggle of traditional standards trying to survive in a world gone wild. Andy was pretty deep, hmmm?
The barren desert can almost be considered its own character and adds to the feeling of remoteness and despondency each man faces. The score is full of great psychedelic horns and some amazing wah-wah guitar and it's a great addition.
Shatner fans will be besides themselves, but this movie belongs to Andy all the way… So, like, don’t be a square and catch this, man!