Wise Blood

(John Huston, USA/West Germany, 1979)


From the '60s, when American cinema started aping European art movies, John Huston made an odd career out of obsequious screen adaptations of great literary works – such as Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967) from Carson McCullers, Under the Volcano (1982) from Malcolm Lowry, and his final film, from James Joyce's The Dead (1987).

For anyone who has not read the original, these films are a disconcerting experience. All the plot moves and character relationships are there, in a strangely flat and literal manner – but with the key to their real meaning and mood seemingly misplaced. Unsurprisingly, these films have survived none too well in the course of film history, beyond the original buzz they stirred.

Huston's version of Wise Blood, Flannery O'Connor's tale of religious and anti-religious nuts in a generally psychotic South, is at least suitably disconcerting, with a feverish cast including Brad Dourif and Harry Dean Stanton.

MORE Huston: A Walk with Love and Death

© Adrian Martin December 1992

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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