Two Great Rock’n’Roll Movies: The World’s Greatest Sinner/Wild Guitar

Timothy Carey invents a new religion, and rocks his way to hell.

¬†You wouldn’t particularly think of 1962 as a great year for movies, but oddly enough it was the year the two greatest rock’n’roll flicks ever made were released. First came The World’s Greatest Sinner (1962), written, directed and starring Timothy Carey (1929-1994) who began his career in Billy Wilder’s incredible Ace In The Hole (which also inspired on of the best Simpsons episodes ever the one were all the rock stars gather to record the “we’re sending our love down the well” song), and can be seen in Kubrick’s Path’s Of Glory and The Killing (written by Jim Thompson), Brando’s One Eyed Jacks, many Beach Party flicks (always as the character South Dakota Slim), even in the Wild One, as well as dozens of TV shows. He was one of the greatest and most memorable character actors of all time. The theme song, done by Frank Zappa & the Mothers’ under the name Baby Ray & the Ferns was issued on Donna (a subsidiary of Del-Fi, the label that gave us Ritchie Valens, Chan Romero, The Bobby Fuller Four, and lots of great surf 45’s) in a different version than the one heard in the flick (with the great How’s Your Bird on the flip, it remains Zappa’s finest moment and best Johnny “Guitar” Watson impersonation). Although it’s never been officially released on DVD, The World’s Greatest Sinner is easy to find, several companies have been selling bootleg copies taken off the TCM broadcast last year (a beautiful print I might add, much better than the old VHS copies that were making the rounds). A Pirate Bay bit torrent rip can be found here. There’s not much point in me describing the plot, as it really is a work of art beyond my powers of description, but do try and see it, it can change your life.
Trailer for Wild Guitar (1962).
Arch Hall Jr. – Actor, rocker, heart-throb.
The second greatest rock’n’roll flick ever made is Ray Dennis Steckler‘s directorial debut Wild Guitar (1962). Steckler aka Cash Flagg would go on to direct such mind blowing low budget films as Rat Fink and Boo Boo (1966, co-written by Chicago rocker and paperback author extraordinaire Ron Haydock) and The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living And Became Mixed Up Zombies (1964), Steckler’s story deserves a book of it’s own. Oddly enough he was the cinematographer on The World’s Greatest Sinner. Both films look great, especially considering their minuscule budgets. Wild Guitar stars the always cool in that “aw shucks” way– Arch Hall Jr. as Bud Eagle, a naive kid who just wants to rock and ends up getting run through the music industry meat grinder by a sleazy small label owner played by his real life father (who also produced the film), Arch Hall Sr. It’s got a great soundtrack (all the tunes in the flick can be found on the Norton Records Arch Hall Jr. CD– Wild Guitar, they also have the film on DVD for a mere $10, not to mention a must have complete Ron Haydock & the Boppers collection). I think I can safely say that Wild Guitar is the sort of masterpiece we shall not see in this century. Here’s the theme song by Arch if you need any further prompting to buy the CD and DVD.
Arch Hall Jr. is still around and plays the occasional gig. Ray Dennis Steckler sadly passed away in January of 2009, no mention of his passing was made during the Academy Awards yearly “remember those who died this year” segment. Fuck them, Wild Guitar is better than almost any movie that ever won an Academy Award, which, in fact, if you ever want to see a list of some of the worst movies ever made, look at the ones that won Oscars–Dances With Wolves, The Titanic, My Fair Lady, Chicago, Rocky, The Sound Of Music, cripes!, I’ll take an episode of The Abbott & Costello Show (oddly enough, their TV show was way better than their movies) any day. Rock’n’roll is very hard to translate to celluloid and most attempts over the years have been laughable, but The World’s Greatest Sinner and Wild Guitar remain two gems,
and they deserve to be seen by anyone who cares about rock’n’roll.
ADDENDUM: Interesting post on Robert Quine (the sixth anniversary of his death was last week) by his cousin Tim can be found here.