The Grapes of Wrath (1940)

grapesofwrath_1Starring Henry Fonda, Jane Darwell, John Carradine, Charley Grapewin, Dorris Bowdon, Russell Simpson, O.Z. Whitehead, John Qualen, Eddie Quillan, Zeffie Tilbury

Directed by John Ford

Expectations: Moderate.

fourstar


The Grapes of Wrath is a hard film to watch and not be affected by. It tells the story of the Joad family from Oklahoma during the Great Depression. Driven from their farm by foreclosure, they decide to move the whole clan to California. There’s talk of jobs picking produce there, and though it’s a hard choice, the promise of something on the other side of the country is better than the nothing they have in Oklahoma.

The film opens with Tom Joad (Henry Fonda) returning from a four-year stay in the penitentiary. He’s on his way home, and he learns of their plight when he arrives there and everyone is gone. They haven’t started for California just yet, though, so Tom is able to help his family get on the road. On the way to the house, Tom also meets Casy, a man who used to be the preacher when Tom was a boy. He finds Casy sitting in a ditch, devoid of faith and disillusioned. Between these two characters are the most interesting scenes of The Grapes of Wrath, not to downplay the other members of the Joad family, but more to highlight how important Casy is to Tom Joad’s evolution over the course of the film.

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7 Faces of Dr. Lao (1964)

Starring Tony Randall, Barbara Eden, Arthur O’Connell, John Ericson, Noah Beery Jr., Lee Patrick, Minerva Urecal, John Qualen, Frank Kreig, Peggy Rea, Eddie Little Sky

Directed by George Pal

Expectations: Moderate because of George Pal’s involvement.


From the depths of my Netflix queue comes this George Pal directed cult classic. I remember hearing about this movie years ago, but I could never muster up the energy to care enough to watch it. A few weeks back I became somewhat enamoured with the idea of watching some other George Pal films because when I was a kid The Time Machine was the absolute shit. It was one of my favorite films during my childhood and it’s one that I will always love. With all this love you’d think I’d have seen some more of his work, but nope! That is, until now.

7 Faces of Dr. Lao is about a mysterious Chinese man who rides into a town in flux. Mr. Stark, a wealthy landowner (Yes, this is a Western of sorts), wishes to purchase the town from its inhabitants, but Dr. Lao arrives just in time. His circus serves as something of a distraction for the townspeople during the two days that they have to decide on Mr. Stark’s “generous” offer. It’s immediately clear to the audience (and to a couple of do-gooder characters) that Stark’s up to no good, but most of the townspeople have only dollar signs in their eyes.

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