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Wise Blood (1979)

Dan Albright , Ned Beatty , John Huston  |  R |  DVD
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Dan Albright, Ned Beatty, Joe Dorsey, Brad Dourif, William Hickey
  • Directors: John Huston
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC, Special Edition, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: Criterion Collection
  • DVD Release Date: May 12, 2009
  • Run Time: 105 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B001TIQT70
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #39,877 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Wise Blood" on IMDb

Special Features


Editorial Reviews

In this acclaimed adaptation of the first novel by legendary Southern writer Flannery O’Connor, John Huston brings to life a world of vivid, poetic American eccentricity. Brad Dourif, in an impassioned performance, is Hazel Motes, who, fresh out of the army, attempts to open the first Church Without Christ in the small town of Taulkinham. Populated with inspired performances that seem to spring right from O’Connor’s pages, Huston’s Wise Blood is an incisive portrait of spirituality and evangelicalism, as well as a faithful, loving evocation of one writer’s vision.


• New, restored high-definition digital transfer

• New 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”

• Creativity with Bill Moyers: “John Huston,” a 28-minute television program from 1982 in which the director discusses his life and work

• Theatrical trailer

• PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by author Francine Prose

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
47 of 48 people found the following review helpful
"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.
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33 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Huston on DVD at Last April 22, 2009
Finally! John Huston's wonderful, spare adaptation of Flannery O'Connor's darkly brilliant comic novel comes to DVD. I've loved this film since its original release -- saw it repeatedly in Paris during its first run there, where it was more successful critically than APOCALYPSE NOW or TESS -- and have tried to catch it at every (infrequent) opportunity since. The period details are a bit off (a low budget guaranteed a bare-bones physical production), but the screenplay and direction couldn't be better. And that cast! A career performance from Brad Dourif as the religion-crazed Hazel Motes, marvellous supporting work from Harry Dean Stanton, Dan Shor and Amy Wright, the ideal Sabbath Lily -- and Atlanta actress Mary Nell Santacroce (mother of Dana Ivey) is unforgettable as Hazel's landlady. O'Connor's violent, sin-soaked South is certainly not for all tastes, nor, in its fidelity to her work, is this film. But if you respond to her vision, this picture will haunt you the rest of your life. Hats off to Criterion for giving us another in their line of wonderful restorations.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Visions of American History and Identity July 14, 2009
John Huston sets this adaptation of Flannery O'Connors Wise Blood not in the sin-soaked South of the early-twentieth century but in the present. This may have been due to budgetary constraints but Huston makes virtue of necessity and the result is a film that looks like it grew right out of the decaying streets of Anytown, America circa the late-1970's. The result is offsetting at first, because in this translation the story is less about religion and more about an America that has lost its unifying vision (if indeed it ever had one). Therefore, thematically, Huston's Wise Blood squares nicely with many other American films from the 69-81 Vietnam and post-Vietnam era like Schlesinger's Midnight Cowboy, Bogdanavich's The Last Picture Show, Hellman's Two-Lane Blacktop, Altman's Nashville, Malick's Days of Heaven, and Forman's Ragtime.

As the beginning credits roll we are treated to a series of beautiful black and white photographs which serve as evocations of an older America but one that in some ways still exists and lives on in the old run-down parts of town and in the old run-down neighborhoods even as a new America tries to re-invent itself and erase its ties to its sin-soaked past. Wise Blood is about American history and identity in a time of national crisis, but Huston does not emphasize the Vietnam War as the source of this crisis, rather he underplays it and instead chooses to focus simply on a lack of a substantive vision (religious, artistic, or otherwise) to lend coherence to the chaos that is America not just in the seventies but in all times and places.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "He gone and done it! He gone and done it!!!" December 2, 2009
Brad Dourif gives a stellar and terrifying performance in this crazy jewel of an independent film based on Flannery O' Connor's novel "Wise Blood".

While it might not match the majesty of the novel, what possibly could?

Hazel Motes is an angry SOB who is determined to prove to the world that Jesus Christ is a sham. More than that, he's out to destroy anyone who claims that Christ is indeed the Way, the Truth and the Life; he has all the maniacal zeal of a debauched decadent damning himself into sainthood.

There are frequent flashbacks to Hazel's childhood, sitting in backwoods barns and hearing about hellfire and damnation from a tall, ugly, and sinister Pentecostal preacher played by none other than director John Huston. This man was Mote's Grandfather and he was so terrifying that in one scene young Hazel urinates all over the place.

He encounters all manner of evil and corruption as he bashes heads trying to become *the* only preacher in the South (not likely). Encountering frauds, tricksters, and money hungry snake oil salesmen, the worst is perhaps Ned Beatty and his companion Asa Hawks (Harry Dean Stanton). Not only do they plagiarize Hazel's demented sermons, given on the tops of cars and random streetcorners, they dare to do so for money, which really pisses Hazel off. And Brad Dourif playing Hazel Motes--well, you wouldn't want to piss either of them off.

In reality, behind his Protestant-atheist disguise, this man is a "Jesus Hog" as the daughter of the "Blind Preacher" calls him, and a penitent in the making. Even his treatment of his insane, monkey suit donning young friend is only another manifestation of Catholicism's burning flame drawing him near like a demented moth. And he crashes on that flame, quite badly. This is recommended for anyone who still concernes themselves with O' Connor's work and that raggedy, shadowy beggar who lurks in the trees and everywhere else. Really sick and really pure.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars my favorite
Love the movie
Published 9 days ago by Robert Betts
4.0 out of 5 stars The Wisdom of Wise Blood
This novel gives a wonderful insight to one of O'Connor's major themes that Christianity is an awakening to those who seek it and even to those who discover it as an answer to... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Old teach
4.0 out of 5 stars Fine performances in a nearly faithful rendition of an essential...
Never afraid to tackle serious literature, Huston provides a lightly streamlined version of Flannery O'Connor's first novel, a true classic of modern American fiction. Read more
Published 4 months ago by T. A. Nelson
5.0 out of 5 stars Gotta watch it!
Excellent portrayal of Christian guilt complex. Outstanding acting and directing. Deserves "Criterion" status. Unique plot and great twists. Spectacular ending.
Published 7 months ago by sizzortongue
1.0 out of 5 stars A Cult Movie; I'm Not In the Cult
If I watch a movie and think about how I would make it differently, that's a reflection on me. Watching Wise Blood, I wanted to take the premise and rewrite the movie. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Joshua P. Graciano
2.0 out of 5 stars Worth Watching After Reading Book
In 1979, Houston released his movie adaptation of Flannery O'Connor's first novel published in 1952. Read more
Published 9 months ago by M. Akins
3.0 out of 5 stars Fun to see it on screen, but not the book.
It is enjoyable to see the characters of one of my favorite books come to life on the screen. However, the filmmakers seem satisfied to portray the absurdity of the story for the... Read more
Published 10 months ago by Aaron Davis
5.0 out of 5 stars My Favorite Dark Comedy, Southern Style
One time I found this movie on a tape at a video rental store, located in the "comedy" section. This wasn't a mistake, in fact it was an insightful choice by the owners of the... Read more
Published 11 months ago by farington
5.0 out of 5 stars Cool movie
I loved watching it. My husband is one of the cops at the end of the movie. Liked see Macon back then.
Published 13 months ago by jazz
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Work - Criterion Collection
liked the adaptation of Ms O'Connors work and by setting it in more contempoary times [ca 1979] feel this gives it a bit more impact. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Eduardo E. Tamayo
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Topic From this Discussion
is there any english subtitles
There were no subtitles in my version - English or otherwise.
Aug 23, 2009 by Shackleford |  See all 2 posts
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