Life is rough in the coal mines of 1876 Pennsylvania. A secret group of Irish emigrant miners, known as the Molly Maguires, fights against the cruelty of the mining company with sabotage ... See full summary »
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Life is rough in the coal mines of 1876 Pennsylvania. A secret group of Irish emigrant miners, known as the Molly Maguires, fights against the cruelty of the mining company with sabotage and murder. A detective, also an Irish emigrant, is hired to infiltrate the group and report on its members. But on which side do his sympathies lie? Written by
John Oswalt <firstname.lastname@example.org>
At the time the movie was made and released publicity for this picture stated that, at 400 feet (= approx. 122 meters), the mine set was the longest interior set ever constructed in Hollywood. See more »
When Detective McParlan (James McKenna) and Mary Raines are walking down the Philadelphia street, a large hill can be seen in the background. There are no hills in the vicinity, or visible from, downtown Philadephia. See more »
Yes, I need them caught in the act... no chance of an alibi. And not just two of them. I want the organisation. I want it smashed. Any bastard who even dreams of making trouble, I want him to wake up sweating blood at what happened to the Molly Maguires.
[McParlan starts to leave]
Not yet! I can't send you away unmarked.
[he floors McParlan with his truncheon]
Detective James McParlan:
Well... it's a pleasure working with a man who likes his job.
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The Molly Maguires is the kind of film that would simply never be made today: a major studio picture about social injustice and betrayal in the coalfields of Pennsylvania in 1876 that became one of the most colossal box-office flops of all time (despite a massive budget and the presence of Sean Connery, it actually grossed even less than John Sayles' low-budget Matewan). Set in the aftermath of a failed strike where a group of miners are trying to win with dynamite what they lost with industrial action as their powerlessness turns into violent action, it's a surprisingly bitter film for a studio picture, even in the 1970s. There's no doubting that Richard Harris' infiltrator is damned. Screenwriter Walter Bernstein was blacklisted, and the experience clearly fuels much of the script. Certainly the end, where absolution is denied, recalls Abraham Polonsky's comment that he got through being blacklisted "because I knew for me one day it would end. For those who named names, it will never end."
But there's more to his script than mere words: huge sections of the film are played without dialogue it's 15 minutes before a single word is spoken and 40 before Sean Connery speaks despite his background presence quietly dominating much of the proceedings. James Wong Howe's astounding scope photography is a major asset, quietly confident as it paints with light a real portrait of a time and place, conveying a sense of the way the pits worked in the beautifully timed establishing shots. There's real intelligence in the framing of the film, whether turning a door frame into an impromptu confessional booth or, in the haunting final shot, turning a rehearsal for one man's execution into another man's silent purgatory. Henry Mancini's score, along with The White Dawn his most beautiful and atypical, is another major plus in a seriously undervalued film.
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