Convicts Blu-ray Review
1902. On the Gulf Coast of Texas, a convict has escaped. As he runs from the dogs and their overseers, a young boy is awakened by the sounds. He then quickly returns to his slumber as these sounds are very familiar on Mr. Soll’s property.
MGM studios had a lot of money troubles in the early 1990s, with many films being kept on the shelf due to a lack of promotional funds. CONVICTS was one of them. Based on the play by acclaimed author Horton Foote (the film is actually referred to as HORTON FOOTE’S “CONVICTS” in the opening credits), the film follows the adventures of 13 year old Horace (Haas, still sporting the big eyed look from WITNESS) who has come to work on Soll’s property in the hopes of earning enough money to buy a headstone to mark his father’s grave. Horace spends most of his time with Ben (Jones) and his wife. Whether he’s overseeing the convict labor that works the land or holding an escaped convict at gunpoint, Ben is always spouting some great pieces of wisdom for young Horace to learn from. They both approach Mr. Soll Gautier (Duvall) as an odd bird. And he is.
One of the hardest things about making a film based on a play is trying to adjust the dialogue so that it doesn’t look like a play. Unfortunately CONVICTS doesn’t do this sufficiently enough. Early scenes in the film have actors standing stiffly, like they were hitting their marks on stage, and speaking in that “just a little too loud” voice you need to project from the stage. Also, despite the great cast, the film has the look and feel of a made-for-television movie. In fact, considering that I can’t find a proper MPAA Rating for the film anywhere, I wonder if it wasn’t in fact sent down that road. Director Masterson, who also helmed Foote’s THE TRIP TO BOUNTIFUL, captures the scenery and period detail well. Foote, who won Oscars for his scripts for TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD and TENDER MERCIES (both which, incidentally, featured Duvall – he made his screen debut in TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD and won the Oscar for Best Actor for TENDER MERCIES) is one of this generations best writers and the words here flow out of the actor’s mouths like water.
And what great mouths they are. I’ve often referred to Duvall as possibly the greatest film actor EVER and he does nothing here to prove me wrong. Jones is also strong, getting the best of the monologues here. Haas is also quite good, conveying that uneasy time in life when you grow from a child to a teenager in what seems like the blink of an eye. Supporting work by Starletta Dupois as Ben’s wife, Starla and Carlin Glynn as Asa, Ben’s main co-worker, is also strong.
All in all, CONVICTS is a quiet, entertaining film that somehow got put on a shelf. I recommend you take it down and give it a watch.
Video: Presented in its original 1:85.1 aspect ratio, the film transfer is sharp, though the colors a muted. Again, I wonder if this was originally meant for television.
Audio: The English soundtrack is available in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 and is well mixed. The dialogue is delivered clearly and the background sounds, especially the inhabitants of the Texas Gulf Coast, never interfere.
The only extra is a :30 second trailer.