How sad that such a brilliant and original film should be so forgotten. Nice to see that 30 years later there is a growing number of people to appreciate this rivetingly weird movie made by the legendary director John Huston less encumbered by Hollywood shackles in his twilight years. Set in Georgia it is the story of a young religious fanatic's rebellion against Christ. Brad Dourif plays Hazel Motes with astonishing intensity in his attempts to found "The Church Without Christ". Forget his best supporting actor in "One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest", this performance is far more oscar deserving, but as is often the case a smaller film got overlooked against glitzy bigger productions. Huston was briefly out of the Hollywood loop and gone indie. Motes inhabits a feral world of hucksters, whores, crooked preachers, used car dealers and lifes losers. One of these is a hilarious turn by Daniel Shor as a disturbed lonely teenager in search of friendship who in one memorable sequence dons a gorilla suit to shake hands with the shocked townsfolk.
Based on Flannery O'Connor's novel and filmed in Macon, Georgia, the film is described as "grotesque southern gothic" which is as good a description as any for a film that almost defies description. The film is anti everything and appalls and saddens in equal measure. No wonder it was difficult to find anyone to finance the film! Eventually it was made for peanuts. The entire crew was only 25 persons who all worked for a minimum wage. The film contains several outstanding performances, but only Brad Dourif, Ned Beatty in a brilliant cameo, and Harry Dean Stanton as a crooked preacher had any reputation to speak of. At the time of Huston's autobiography "An Open Book" in 1980 "Wise Blood" was the last film he had made. He went on to make a few others. In some of his last words he said 'nothing would make me happier than to see this picture gain popular acceptance and turn a profit. It would prove something. I'm not sure what...but something'. It was never going to be a money spinner but I have a feeling it will date far better than so many other films of the period. It is a strangely rich concoction that rewards viewing. It is also a brilliantly original piece of film making. Not a film you would have expected from Huston, which perhaps shows what a truly gifted man he was.