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Matewan (1987)

Chris Cooper , James Earl Jones , John Sayles  |  PG-13 |  DVD
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (149 customer reviews)

Price: $17.71 & FREE Shipping on orders over $35. Details
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Product Details

  • Actors: Chris Cooper, James Earl Jones, Mary McDonnell, Will Oldham, David Strathairn
  • Directors: John Sayles
  • Writers: John Sayles
  • Producers: Amir Jacob Malin, Ira Deutchman, James Glenn Dudelson, Jerry Silva, Maggie Renzi
  • Format: NTSC
  • Language: English, Italian
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Rated: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
  • Studio: PDX
  • Run Time: 135 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (149 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000068QP0
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #16,483 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Matewan" on IMDb

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
239 of 252 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Great film - awful DVD November 6, 2003
John Sayles' best film merits a far better DVD treatment than this technical travesty.

Others here have mentioned the film's amazing cinematograhy, fine performances (indierockers note: a young Will Oldham -- aka singer/songwriter Bonnie "Prince" Billy -- has a featured role) and stirring story. But it bears repeating that this digital transfer is *atrocious*. The film is presented in "full-screen" format, lopping off the edges of Haskell Wexler's beautiful frames. Celluloid scratches and "reel change" hole-punches are visible throughout. And the sound, if you can believe it, is worse -- it's in hissy, almost inaudible MONO, for God's sake!

Zero commentaries. Almost no bonus extras, unless you count a few panels of "production notes."

Not worth a purchase. Wait for the morons at Artisan to get their collective act together and give this fine film the gold-star release it deserves.
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52 of 53 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not the item advertised July 5, 2010
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
OK, this is listed as the Widescreen version 1.85:1. Immediately after beginning to watch the movie, it was apparent that this is a bad transfer of the widescreen tape version with the sides cut off. I ordered it for the very reason that it specifically set itself apart from the the version that others were complaining about. Well, I am keeping it because it is a great movie and I doubt I am going to do any better anywhere else, but don't advertise it as widescreen when it IS NOT!!!!!
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48 of 51 people found the following review helpful
This 1987 film, written and directed by John Sayles, is based on a real incident from the 1920, when workers from a West Virginia coal mine went on strike. Chris Cooper stars as a labor union organizer who comes to the town which is run the Company that have just brought in a trainload of black men as well as a group of Italian families to do the work of the strikers. James Earl Jones is cast as the leader of the blacks who says out loud that he understands people can't help calling him the "N" word, but no man can ever call him a "scab". Will Oldham is cast as a 14-year old mine worker and sometimes preacher. There are heroes and villains in this film, and Kevin Tighe and Gordon Clapp are the kind of bad guys you love to hate.
The pace is slow as the story unfolds, each actor giving depth to his or her role. The Union is represented as a good and unifying force for the diverse types of people caught up in the drama. The company is represented as bad. Really bad. Not only did they exploit their workers and push people out of their homes, they also did not stop at brutal murder. There were enough personal stories to keep the film interesting although I found some of the speeches a little long and talky. It was all about mood and bleakness and John Sayles sure is a master of setting the mood. Most of the extras in the film lived in the area of Appalachia where it was shot and the close-ups of their faces added to the film's authenticity.
One of the problems was that the transfer of the film to DVD wasn't done well. The sound was muffled and some of the words were indistinct. And the shots set in the forest were so dark that it was hard to tell what was going on. I enjoyed the film although I thought it was too long. Followers of John Sayles work will enjoy it though, as well as those with an interest in union struggle.
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35 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully placed, pictured and performed February 23, 1999
Format:VHS Tape
It seems not widely known that this poignant and proud film was shot in Thurmond, WVa., a once booming and now all-but-abandoned coal town absent from many maps, where main street is indeed a railroad track and where a visit today is a step back in time . . . to that very time . . . a time born of coal mines and railroads I was fortunate to visit and photograph with my wife, who's from Huntington, just last summer. Having walked amid the the water tanks, the coal and sand towers . . . the bank and hotel fronts . . . the homes later seen in an earlier time through the movie made this an extremely absorbing film for me. My wife would probably not agree, as such things about the history of West Virginia, where she is visiting again this week, and depictions of its people, like the Okies in "Grapes of Wrath," seem to strike her with a different, harder kind of edge. To me, Thurmond is as wonderful a setting for "Matewan" as Sayles's movie is a palpable depiction of life for men and families struggling powerlessly -- almost -- for each day. The darkened "streets" of Thurmond today, like the blackened miner's face at the film's end, say it all at a glance. See it.
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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Actual Life in WV July 11, 2002
By A Customer
Format:VHS Tape
Matewan is one of my favorite movies. I grew up in WV so I can closely identify with the characters and the dialog/accents were easy for me to understand, which may be difficult for others. John Sayles used some artistic license to change the story a little for the movie, but the Matewan Massacre really happened. I believe the character of Joe Keenahan (Kenihan?) is based on Frank Keeney, UMWA District 17 president in 1917. The Baldwin-Felts guards were real. The gunfight at Matewan led to Mingo County being known as "bloody Mingo" to this day.
Life in the coal towns is portrayed realistically and the film color is a marvel. The guards really did throw people out of their homes. Around 1912 there is a documented story that during the Paint Creek - Cabin Creek strikes, one miner's wife, in labor, was thrown out of her house. She pleaded to be allowed to first have her child, but the guards threated to shoot her if she didn't leave the house. She gave birth a couple of hours later in a UMWA tent. So remember when you watch this film that other indignities and unspeakable acts occurred in these mine fields - Sayles gives you a good taste of the unfortunate circumstances.
Good reading for those interested in learning more after seeing Matewan might be David Alan Corbin's "Life, Work, and Rebellion in the Coal Fields." Matewan is discussed several times in his book. (I have no affliation). You will learn more about how every aspect of a miner's life was controlled by the company - for instance, lessons taught at the company-operated school were designed to educate the children in mining methods and hazards.
Matewan touches upon these issues but of course not everything can be shown in one movie.
I'm glad this movie was produced to educate others about the miner's plight. It's an excellent addition to anyone's collection. Too bad it was never publicized enough to make it more mainstream.
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2002 remastered release?
Would LOVE to see a re-release; just watched it - it being the 1999 Artisan Entertainment DVD release. Audio is a travesty; waayy low volume, no articulation, hissy. This is a great movie waiting for proper DVD treatment.
Feb 22, 2009 by T. Kammerer |  See all 2 posts
Confederate Flag?
The flag has nothing to do with it, but it does add some color. The distance between the Confederacy and the establishment of the mine workers' union is vast, so I wonder how the two were related.
Jun 20, 2008 by Robert M. Baker |  See all 2 posts
This is an old post, but I thought I would reply anyhow. Perhaps I can see where they accents may be difficult in some foreign counttries, but I find it difficult to believe that any American born in this country would have any problem understanding what is being said even with a fuzzy... Read More
Aug 1, 2008 by Karen Shaub |  See all 3 posts
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