“I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!”
was the rallying call of Howard Beale (Peter Finch) from the 1976 film, Network. What started out as a single man shouting into a television camera soon became a mass of the populous who shared in his anger. If one person is angry, people usually think they’re having a bad day, but if a bunch of people are angry, you’re liable to have a revolution on your hands. Whether it’s a bunch of angry outlaws who form a gang, or a group of down-and-out people trying to survive in a harsh world, if enough of them gather together and focus their anger, they will most certainly try to solve their problems in the only way they know how. This week’s two films examine a few bunches of people who were mad as hell and weren’t going to take it anymore.
The Wild Bunch
Length: 145 minutes / 2.42 hours
If there was one thing that drove the old west, it was luck. Success or failure to survive often hinged on the most random chances. For those who had good luck, they would strike it rich with gold or oil. However, very few people had this luck. With all the dangers and unknown elements in the old west, most people seemed to have bad luck thrust upon them. In order to combat individual bad luck, many would gather together, sometimes in gangs of outlaws, to perhaps survive any bad luck that would come upon them. But what if the whole bunch had bad luck? After a few instances of surprisingly bad luck, I’m sure they’d be angry about their situation. Of course, one would wonder if the karma of the universe was having its say, especially considering the less-than-admirable professions of western outlaws.
Unlike the western films up to this time, which had somewhat censored violence, this film brought realistic gun violence to the screen in an unflinching manner. As the old west reaches its sunset years, suddenly being quick with a gun is not good enough. Cars and machine guns herald the arrival of the new century and hint at the warfare of the gangsters to come. A bunch of aging outlaws, led by Pike Bishop (William Holden), are ambushed by bounty hunters in a botched robbery in Texas. To add insult to injury, the ambush was accomplished by a former member of the outlaws, Deke Thornton (Robert Ryan). Even though they get away with some bags of money, many of the gang are killed. Unfortunately, the bags are just full of metal slugs and aren’t worth a thing. Now in Mexico, the gang tries their hand at weapons dealing, leading to more unfortunate events.
The Grapes of Wrath
Rating: Not Rated
Length: 129 minutes / 2.15 hours
It can be difficult to not have a sense of sour grapes when it comes to poverty. Sure, you want to have a better life, but life seems to keep pushing you down, no matter what you do. The most famous historical event that caused much sour grapes would be the Dust Bowl of the 1930’s. Happening right after the Great Depression, many were unemployed and looking for work, with the most readily available work being a migrant worker on already struggling farms. As such, there would be a sense of wrath amongst those who are just trying to survive, but have no opportunities to do so. When tensions are high, anger is prevalent, which can cause people to do stupid things, acting out of their anger. Based on John Steinbeck’s novel of the same name, The Grapes of Wrath focuses on the hardships of poverty and the responses of those affected by it.
The Joads have found that their Oklahoma sharecropped farm is no longer sustainable due to the drought of the Dust Bowl and the greed of land companies. When Tom Joad (Henry Fonda) returns home after a stint in prison, he finds his family already packed up and ready to head to California. Right out of the gate, Grandpa Joad (Charely Grapewin) dies, but the family has no time to grieve as they continue across Route 66 toward some possible migrant worker jobs. That is, if any are there, as there have been rumors that there is no work available in California. In crossing the desert, Grandma Joad (Zeffie Tilbury) dies and the family once again have to move on. When they arrive in California, they find the rumors true, which causes Tom to eventually find work as a strikebreaker. With tensions high, Tom kills a deputy and now must leave his family as his mother urges everyone to carry on.
2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 malcontent mobs