Wise Blood

( 5 )


Wise Blood was a surprising project coming from John Huston -- a modest, low-budget adaptation of Flannery O'Connor's novel about one man's rather combative relationship with God, it was a personal effort from a man who was used to working with major stars and large bankrolls, and it ha been acclaimed as one of the most remarkable works of Huston's career. After years out of print on home video, the Criterion Collection have made Wise Blood available again on DVD in a handsome, well-appointed edition. Most of the...
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Wise Blood was a surprising project coming from John Huston -- a modest, low-budget adaptation of Flannery O'Connor's novel about one man's rather combative relationship with God, it was a personal effort from a man who was used to working with major stars and large bankrolls, and it ha been acclaimed as one of the most remarkable works of Huston's career. After years out of print on home video, the Criterion Collection have made Wise Blood available again on DVD in a handsome, well-appointed edition. Most of the pervious video releases of Wise Blood have tended look grainy and a bit washed out, emphasizing the picture's low budget, but Criterion's transfer -- letterboxed at 1.78:1 on conventional televisions and enhanced for anamorphic play on 16x9 monitors -- gives the image a richer and better saturated color balance, and the picture is noticeably sharper than it had been in the past, though a certain softness is still apparent. The audio has been mastered in Dolby Digital Mono, and the fidelity is crisp and clear, emphasizing the beauty of Alex North's fine score. The dialogue is in English, with optional English subtitles but no multiple language options. For this edition, Criterion has included new interviews with actor Brad Dourif, producer Michael Fitzgerald and screenwriter Benedict Fitzgerald, all of whom offer interesting details on the production and Huston's unique working methods (including how the film's limited budget added to its curious but realistic look and why the director's name is misspelled in the credits). Director Huston is represented by a 1982 episode of the PBS series Creativity with Bill Moyers, in which the journalist interviews Huston about his life and working methods. Wise Blood's original theatrical trailer is also featured, as well as a rare audio recording of Flannery O'Connor reading and discussing her short story "A Good Man Is Hard To Find," believed to be the only recording of the author reading her work and a fascinating document of her perspective on her own work (as well as her mellifluous deep Southern voice). And finally, the booklet includes a thoughtful essay by Francine Prose on Wise Blood and Huston's history of adventurous literary adaptations. It was far from a box-office success, but Wise Blood remains one of John Huston's most satisfying works, and Criterion has finally treated it like the major work it is with this essential DVD edition.
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Special Features

Interviews with actor Brad Dourif, writer Benedict Fitzgerald, and writer-producer Michael Fitzgerald; Rare archival audio recording of author Flannery O'Connor reading her short story "A Good Man is Hard to Find"; 26-minute episode of the television program Creativity with Bill Moyers from 1982, featuring director John Huston discussing his life and work; Theatrical trailer; Plus: a booklet featuring an essay by author Francine Prose
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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide
This religious satire directed by veteran John Huston took no prisoners but failed to inspire a mass following. Wise Blood is a black comedy based on a quirky novel about the American South by Flannery O'Connor. Heavily atmospheric in its depiction of Southern culture and evangelism, it focuses on a a war veteran and drifter who decides to found a new religion, the Church Without Christ, which preaches a strange brand of fundamentalism and libertarianism. Huston masterfully focuses on the comic nuances of an American public that is ripe for evangelical exploitation. The superb, offbeat cast of Brad Dourif, Huston, Ned Beatty, Amy Wright, and Harry Dean Stanton created no buzz at the box office, but Wise Blood ranks as one of Huston's neglected gems.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 5/12/2009
  • UPC: 715515045612
  • Original Release: 1979
  • Rating:

  • Source: Criterion
  • Region Code: 1
  • Presentation: Special Edition / Wide Screen
  • Time: 1:46:00
  • Format: DVD
  • Sales rank: 11,747

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Brad Dourif Hazel Motes
Ned Beatty Hoover Shoates
Harry Dean Stanton Asa Hawks
Dan Shor Enoch Emory
Amy Wright Sabbath Lily Hawks
John Huston Grandfather
Mary Nell Santacroce Landlady
William Hickey Preacher
Joe Dorsey
Stratton Leopold
Dan Albright
Jerry Rushing
Gladys Hill
Technical Credits
John Huston Director
Allan A. Apone Makeup
Hans Brockmann Associate Producer
Gerry Fisher Cinematographer
Kathy Fitzgerald Producer
Michael Fitzgerald Producer, Screenwriter
Sally Fitzgerald Costumes/Costume Designer, Set Decoration/Design
Stratton Leopold Casting
Alex North Score Composer
Tom Shaw Asst. Director
Roberto Silvi Editor
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Scene Index

Disc #1 -- Wise Blood
1. Opening Credits [1:51]
2. Nobody Left [8:13]
3. The City [11:39]
4. Wise Blood [6:09]
5. The Zoo [12:13]
6. Church Without Christ [6:46]
7. A Bastard [8:53]
8. "Keep it Sweet" [7:29]
9. "King of the Beasts" [9:25]
10. The New Prophet [10:24]
11. "Goin' Somewheres" [8:09]
12. Clean [6:13]
13. Home [8:30]
14. Color Bars [:00]
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Disc #1 -- Wise Blood
   Play the Movie
      Actor Brad Dourif
      Writer-Producer Michael Fitzgerald
      Writer Benedict Fitzgerald
   Flannery O'Connor
      Play Introduction
      Play Story
   John Huston
      Play All
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 5 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 1, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Excellent adaptation of the Flannery O'Connor novel.

    This is an excellent adaptation of Flannery O'Connor's novel. My review will be biased towards the script accurately following the novel that I enjoyed.

    I visited Savannah, GA this past winter and the scenes in the film mirror scenes you would expect to see in the old, historical southern US. Preachers in the street, old movie theatres, the movie and the book are accurate representations of the southern American Gothic genre. The characters are fallen, human and redeemable. I see these Christian themes in the book and in the movie, others may see this movie differently.

    If you enjoy reading Walker Percy or other Southern literary giants, or if you like movies like "Midnight in the Garden of Good & Evil" than I think that you would enjoy this movie.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 1, 2010

    more from this reviewer


    Criterion's "WISE BLOOD" is an overlooked jewel.

    Southern writer Flannery O'Connor's first novel, "Wise Blood," made it to the big screen in 1979. The John Huston directed, low budget feature was widely praised and then practically forgotten.

    O'Connor was a devout Catholic. She was also battling lupus, the sometimes debilitating immune disorder. Both factors may have colored her novel. Huston was a devout atheist. His world view certainly nuanced the tone of the film.

    The story concerns a somewhat troubled, perhaps damaged, youth, Hazel Motes (Brad Dourif). Just out of the army and son of a fire and brimstone Pentecostal preacher, Motes is determined to open the first Church Withouth Christ in Taulkinham, Tennessee.

    A young Brad Dourif is brilliant as the driven, vexed, Motes. There's not a false note or a wasted frame. His is a journey of spiritual self-exploration, penance and perhaps redemption. O'Connor's curiosity about the southern brand of Pentecostal mind set is riveting on film. Motes is trying to shed the damage of his ferocious religious childhood, but cannot shed his spirituality. He finds he's a Christian in spite of himself.

    Supporting actors Harry Dean Stanton, Amy Wright, Ned Beatty, William Hickey and Dan Shor are all spot on.

    The frisson between director Huston's disdain for religion and O'Connor's devoutness is a perfect match. The screenplay by brothers Benedict and Michael Fitzgerald does not stray from the core events, tone and ideas of O'Connor's story.

    The obviously lower budget production, shot mostly in Macon, Georgia of the late 1970s, does not really detract, even though the novel is set in a somewhat earlier period.

    The use of older, rather decayed buildings and locations amidst a more modern setting give a kind of muddy, out-of-time, appeal. A nice visual metaphor to the theme of old fundamentalist religious views in conflict with a more progressive spirituality.

    This is a unique film and story. Hard to categorize. For me, it's a darkly comic, decidedly gothic, tale of profound spirituality and humanism. When the shoot was over, Huston said, "I think I've been had."

    Criterion's transfer, as usual, is clean and sharp. I thought the color was unusually true and subtle. And the period monaural track crisp and easy on the ear.

    The extras are all watchable. The new interviews with Dourif and the writer-producer brothers Fitzgerald are entertaining and informative.

    A huge bonus is the rare recording of Flannery O'Connor reading her famous and terrific short story "A Good Man is Hard to Find" is alone probably worth the price of the disc! This is the only known recording of the author reading one of her stories.

    There's also a wonderful vintage 1982 "Creativity With Bill Moyers" with director Huston.

    Widescreen (1.78:1), 106 minutes

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    Posted May 12, 2009

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    Posted May 17, 2009

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    Posted July 26, 2010

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