U.S.A. • WEST GERMANY • 1979 • COLOUR • 105 MIN

‘Funny and dire,’ said Huston of Flannery O’Connor’s novel. ‘You don’t know whether to laugh or be appalled.’ Set in America’s Bible Belt, it stars Brad Dourif as Hazel Motes, an ex-soldier rebelling against his upbringing who becomes the founder and solitary member of his ‘Church Without Christ’. Among the souls he encounters on his grisly path to redemption are a charlatan preacher (Harry Dean Stanton), a disreputable huckster (Ned Beatty), and a lonely youth (Daniel Shor) who attaches himself to Hazel because of his ‘wise blood’ and because he spies a connection between him and a mummified pygmy in the local museum. Acted to perfection by a devoted cast, right down to the traffic police and Hazel’s dilapidated car, this is not to everyone’s taste but still a remarkable work from a Hollywood veteran, scathing about religious fanaticism, tender towards humanity’s weirder impulses, and with a sensibility and imagery that would not look out of place in a Werner Herzog or Luis Buñuel film. Huston professed himself (rightly) immensely proud of it; ‘Time Out’ thought it his best film for many years.—Neil Sinyard.

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