At the age of 73, John Huston allowed his affinity for losers to attract him to the least marketable project of his career. The story of an obsessive, young, southern evangelist and several equally eccentric characters affected by him, WISE BLOOD, an unusual mixture of comedy, tragedy, satire and horror, is an uningratiating but haunting work.
After his army discharge, young Hazel Motes (Brad Dourif) returns to his Southern hometown to find the family house boarded up. After taking a train to the city, he rents a room in a seedy boardinghouse, occupied by Asa Hawks (Harry Dean Stanton), an evangelist who claims to have blinded himself
for God, and his daughter, Sabbath Lily (Amy Wright), a teenager who becomes infatuated with Hazel. Hazel becomes a street preacher for the "Church of Truth Without Christ," a secular religion of his own invention. One night, he is approached by Hoover Shoates (Ned Beatty), an opportunist who
wants to become Hazel's promoter. The young man rebuffs him. Hazel discovers that Hawks is not blind, and winds up moving in with Sabbath Lily. When Shoates hires a preacher (William Hickey) to compete with Hazel, Hazel tracks down his rival and runs him over.
In the late 1970s, after being being approached about adapting Wise Blood by the son of Flannery O' Connor's literary executor, Huston went down to Macon, GA with a crew of only 25 and shot the film in 48 days. Although the movie earned its director a standing ovation at the Cannes Film Festival
and his best reviews in years, no major Hollywood studio would distribute it. Nonetheless, Huston declared himself "intensely proud of it, as proud of it as anything I've ever done."
Perfectly cast as Hazel, Dourif parlays all the eccentricity, frustration, righteousness, humorlessness, and rage of youth into one darkly comic package. Wright is splendid as trashy seductress Sabbath Lily. In addition to Huston's keenly focused direction, the film is blessed with bracing, wintry
pictures by cinematographer Gerry Fisher, and a melancholy Alex North arrangement of the "Tennessee Waltz" that is so affecting and haunting that it goes a long way toward persuading the viewer that WISE BLOOD's appalling personae are indeed worth caring about and grieving for.
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- Released: 1979
- Rating: PG
- Review: At the age of 73, John Huston allowed his affinity for losers to attract him to the least marketable project of his career. The story of an obsessive, young, southern evangelist and several equally eccentric characters affected by him, WISE BLOOD, an unusu… (more)