“I don’t have to run away from anything, ’cause I don’t believe in anything.”
An angry young veteran (Brad Dourif) returns to his small Southern town determined to decry the hypocrisy of its citizens. After witnessing a supposedly self-blinded preacher (Harry Dean Stanton) and his grown daughter (Amy Wright) passing out religious tracts, Hazel (Dourif) is inspired to start his own church — the Church of Christ Without Christ, “where the blind don’t see and the lame don’t walk and what’s dead stays that way.”
John Huston’s darkly comedic adaptation of Flannery O’Connor’s 1952 novel is a wild ride through a Southern Gothic universe in which quirkiness, corruption, and hypocrisy are the norm. Brad Dourif — with his intense, beady gaze — ably carries the film, keeping us interested in Hazel’s fate even when events take a decidedly downbeat turn; other performances are equally memorable — particularly Amy Wright as a young woman who takes an immediate (sexual) interest in Hazel; Harry Dean Stanton as a “blind” preacher who represents everything Dourif could eventually become; and Dan Shor as a clingy stranger who is inexplicably desperate for Hazel’s approval. Unfortunately, the characters in Wise Blood are ultimately more interesting than the narrative itself, which fails to capitalize on its heady potential: key figures (such as Ned Beatty’s shyster) are barely given enough screen time to register, and Hazel’s Church Without Christ never develops much of a following. Nonetheless, this is enough of an unusual cult favorite to recommend as must-see viewing for all film fanatics. Available here for streaming as a Google Video.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Brad Dourif as Hazel
- Dan Shor as Hazel’s loyal “disciple”, Enoch
- Amy Wright as Sabbath
- Harry Dean Stanton as Asa Hawks
- Many clever, colorful lines of dialogue:
“She sho’ was ugly. She had these here brown glasses, and her hair was so thin it looked like ham gravy trickling over her skull.”
Yes, for its status as a cult favorite. Listed in the back of Peary’s book as a Cult Movie and a Personal Recommendation.