The year is 1974 and there’s nothing more dangerous than being a hippie in Baja California. That’s because psychotic business Sam Farragutt (played by Andy Griffith!) is on the loose. Sam likes to describe himself as being a hippie himself. “A hippie with money,” Sam puts it as he waves a hundred dollar bill in the face of a hippie without money,
Actually, there is one thing more dangerous than being a hippie in Baja California and that’s being an ad executive. Once again, Sam Farragutt is to blame. He’s willing to give his business to three ad execs but first they have to agree to go down to Baja and ride around with him on their motorcycles. The three ad execs are Terry Maxon (former child evangelist Marjoe Gortner!), Paul McIllvain (former Brady Bunch star Robert Reed!), and suicidal burn-out Warren Summerfield (William Shatner!). Warren is having an affair with Paul’s wife (Angie Dickinson!) but he’s still planning on committing suicide in Mexico.
However, going to Mexico gives Warren a new lease on life. After Warren discovers that Farragutt is responsible for the death of two hippies, he becomes determined to make sure that justice is served. Soon, Andy Griffith (!) is chasing William Shatner (!) across the Mexican desert. Someone’s going to die. Is it going to be Sheriff Taylor or Captain Kirk?
Pray For The Wildcats was a made-for-TV movie that aired the same year as Savages. Both movies were a part of Andy Griffith’s attempt to change his image after playing the folksy Sheriff Taylor on The Andy Griffith Show. Griffith is a good villain but the main appeal of Pray for the Wildcats is the chance to see William Shatner doing his thing. Shatner has a juicy role here, playing a man who is at first suicidal and then righteously indignant. He overemotes with the self-serious intensity that was Shatner’s trademark in the years before he finally developed a sense of humor about himself. The movie itself gets bogged down with unnecessary flashbacks and dated dialogue but the spectacle of Griffith vs. Shatner makes it all worth it.