Rebel With A Cause

Back in the 50s, before there was such a thing as a teenager, there was a group of young motorcycle gangs that skipped school and rode their machines without being hassled by the man. They rumbled and carried switchblades and, once Hollywood found out...

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Dec 1 2000, 12:00am




Back in the 50s, before there was such a thing as a teenager, there was a group of young motorcycle gangs that skipped school and rode their machines without being hassled by the man. They rumbled and carried switchblades and, once Hollywood found out about them, made being cool an international phenomenon that has lasted to this day. Frank Mazzola was one of those kids and, like the aesthetic him and his friends defined half a century ago, he's still picking fights.

His most recent cause is rescuing Wild Side, a film that nearly vanished when it went straight to video five years ago due to studio hassles. The film was directed by Mazzola's long-time collaborator Donald Cammell, who killed  himself after the movie bombed. It stars Christopher Walken and Anne Heche, and is a beautifully dreamy and absurd look at the darker side of high-level money laundering, prostitution and lesbianism. After Cammell died, Mazzola went back to the director's notes and discovered the studios had hacked the shit out of it. The straight to video version (a soft-core erotic fluff-piece)was nothing like the original. Mazzola then spent months piecing the film back together in what has been dubbed the first-ever "posthumous director's cut." Now things are different. The movie is no longer a piece of shit, in fact, it's excellent and has won numerous awards on the international festival circuit.

Mazzola is best known for his groundbreaking work in the 50s and 60s, being linked to everybody from Ken Kesey to Peter Fonda to Elvis Presley. He pioneered that whole style of surrealistic, non-linear montage that you see in films like  Performance (starring Mick Jagger), the seminal intellectual cult film that revolutionized film language.

As an actor, most know him as Crunch, the brooding tough guy from Rebel Without a Cause. James Dean had the studios pay Mazzola extra as a "rebel consultant." A Rolling Stone article about Rebel says "Frank Mazzola headed up the Athenians, at Hollywood High, a kind of fighting fraternity known as the toughest guys around."

His next project, The Athenians, is currently in pre-production. The movie is about gang wars, West Coast be-bop, hot rods and leather jackets in 1950s Hollywood.

Although he's been through five decades of madness and violence, Mazzola's motto is "Art should enoble the spirit -- that's the real wild side."

For more information on Wild Side, The Athenians and The Argument (a lost treasure directed by Donald Cammell right after Performance available for the first time ever) check out mazzolafilmco.com

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