Wise Blood

Critics Consensus

Director John Huston and author Flannery O'Connor prove a formidable creative match in Wise Blood, a gothic satire anchored by Brad Dourif's vinegary performance.

87%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 23

75%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 1,760

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Movie Info

Set in the Deep South during the postwar era, Wise Blood stars Brad Dourif as an aimless veteran, who decides to become a Bible-thumping preacher (for a questionable concern called "The Church Wihout Christ") principally because he hasn't anything better lined up. Dourif links up with a veteran of the hellfire-and-brimstone circuit, who for business purposes pretends to be blind. The older man persuades Dourif to blind himself for real so that he can truly "see the light" (yes, the movie is that weird). Director Huston, himself, appears as Dourif's grandfather. Adapted from the one-of-a-kind novel by Flannery O'Connor, Wise Blood was a noble experiment but a box-office failure-though, to be fair, Huston never set out to make a blockbuster from O'Connor's offbeat tale.

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Critic Reviews for Wise Blood

All Critics (23) | Top Critics (6) | Fresh (20) | Rotten (3)

  • Flannery O'Connor's incisive sense of person and place is brilliantly captured in this 1979 film adaptation of her highly regarded first novel, which plays out as a broad comedy set within a timeless purgatory.

    August 4, 2020 | Rating: 5/6 | Full Review…

    Keith Uhlich

    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • This time, Huston has found material that was all but guaranteed to fuel the battiest recesses of his imagination.

    September 19, 2014 | Full Review…
  • John Huston, with uncluttered direction and expert handling of actors, has fashioned a disturbing tale of the fringe side of overzealous religious preachers in the deep South.

    July 6, 2010 | Full Review…

    Variety Staff

    Variety
    Top Critic
  • This adaptation of Flannery O'Connor's novel is John Huston's best film for many years.

    January 26, 2006 | Full Review…

    Chris Auty

    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • One of John Huston's most original, most stunning movies.

    May 20, 2003 | Full Review…
  • Along with The Man Who Would Be King and The Dead, this is arguably John Huston's best literary adaptation, and conceivably his very best film.

    January 1, 2000 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Wise Blood

  • Feb 18, 2012
    Decidely more tragicomic and surrealist than ever before. Another show about the love that John Huston always professed to losers.
    Pierluigi P Super Reviewer
  • Oct 03, 2011
    One would think that a film based on a novel by one's favorite Southern Gothic author and directed by John Huston would be a sure-fire recipe for an enjoyable film. One would be wrong. Wooden characterizations, a severely limited emotional range, plot elements loosely thrown together, and diversions that went nowhere made this one that the viewer had to force himself to finish. The one bright spot in an otherwise dreadful film was Amy Wright as the young woman, Sabbath Lily. Innocence and worldly wisdom resided comfortably side by side in her characterization, and she could be seductive one minute and incredibly naive the next and make both completely believable. The two young men, Hazel Motes and Enoch Emory, played by Brad Dourif and Dan Shor, respectively, were nothing more than one-dimensional caricatures of backwoods southern boys. Hazel is a returning veteran who has lost his religion and moves to the big city. He is angry at the world and all of his lines and all of his energy was devoted to maintaining a righteous anger throughout. One quickly tired of his diatribes. Enoch, is the country bumpkin who becomes fascinated with whatever shiny thing is in front of his nose at the moment. He desperately wants people to like him, but his efforts to please them are so inept as to make his character pathetic rather than sympathetic. I expected batter from the legendary director and found this effort doubly disappointing.
    Mark A Super Reviewer
  • Aug 12, 2010
    A film based on a Flannery O'Connor novel shouldn't be this boring. I think the problem is that John Huston was a devote atheist so he couldn't really have the extreme religious conviction of O'Connor even if he made a film that is pretty faithful to what happens in the novel. O'Connor's stories are sort of a Catholic take on Southern Gothic literature, and while I'm not sure I ever really agree with her, all her stories make for interesting reads. I don't want to be too hard on the film, Brad Dourif is fantastic, and maybe I shouldn't blame Huston too much. The real problem is that any movie loses the wonderful poetry of O'Connor's descriptions so maybe film adaptations are out of the question.
    Alec B Super Reviewer
  • Aug 08, 2010
    A very strange and thoughtful 70s drama with dark and comedic twists. Directed by John Huston and starring Brad Dourif, the film tackles a lot of themes and adapts to a variety of tones throughout, making for an experience both ambitious and scattershot. The final fourth of the film is particularly difficult to grasp. But despite being uneven and repellant at time, in Huston's hands the film always remains entertaining and interesting. It's worth the effort for Dourif outstanding performance alone. Huston in his more outlandish form.
    Michael S Super Reviewer

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