For years, Hollywood has made various adaptations of the Scopes Monkey Trial by doing versions of "Inherit the Wind", a fictionalized account that grinds whatever axes Hollywood wants to grind that year. This film tries to tell the Christian side of the story, and there is some ax-grinding here. The things that the film gets right. The "Scopes Monkey Trial" was not a ruthless persecution of poor John Scopes, but a publicity stunt by the dying town of Dayton, Tennessee to try to attract commerce by challenging the Butler Act. It escalated beyond anyone's control when the trial became a debate between Clarance Darrow (played by Brian Dennihy) and failed Presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan (played by failed presidential candidate Fred Dalton Thompson) over the Bible and Darwin's theories. Bryan is portrayed sympathetically here, as truly concerned that the implications that people were drawing from Darwin's theories devalued human life. The film pulls no punches, not only making Bryan completely sympathetic, but also having the subplot of the black girl who is going to be sterilized under theories of eugenics. The film takes pains to point out that Bryan was a champion for women's suffrage and the common man. Brian Dennehy portrays Clarance Darrow, as a ruthless but somewhat sympathetic lawyer. They do give him a moment where he does something decent, though. But really, Dennehy and Thompson have extended cameos by actors doing an "art" film. The real story is the small town reporter Charles B Anderson (whom I'm guessing is fictional) who works with famous writer H.L. Mencken , and struggles with journalistic ethics vs. wanting to advance himself. He finds himself pulled between his love interest and Mencken, who is portrayed as really kind of unsavory. Mencken is played with devilish glee by Colm Meaney of Star Trek fame. He has no ethics and doesn't care who he hurts in the process. When a person he mocks complains about why he mocked her, he replies that "because you're backwards and you're proud of it!" It's a great villainous performance. Some other observations- Filmed in Sepia-Vision. Yes, anything that takes place between about 1850 and 1940 is filmed in "Sepia-Vision" that tinting of film that makes things look brownish. So we are reminded that we are in olden times. "I was fined $100? That's a lot of money back now!" Overall, I recommend this film, heavy handed as it is, and not being particularly religious myself. I think the characters are fleshed out just enough to make them interesting.
Drama / History / Romance
Drama / History / Romance
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When a teacher is arrested in Tennessee for trying to teach evolution in 1925, a young ambitious reporter must choose whether to take advice from his sweetheart or the notorious columnist when it comes to his approach to the story.
October 7, 2021