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Robin Spry's ONE MAN predates several other films made about the effects
factories poisoning the communities that surround them, and it still
up well as a strong thriller. Len Cariou gives a good performance as a
headstrong TV news journalist whose investigating of mob warfare in
brings him to a local hospital one day. It is there he meets a young
worker (Carole Lazare) who points him in the direction of a potent story
nobody seems to care about: the alarming child mortality rate in a
surrounding a large factory. The company that owns the factory denies any
level of responsibility, but as the investigation deepens lives become
seriously jeopardized. The film's resolution was not one that I had
predicted, and is more in line with a 70's sense of pessimism.
ONE MAN was produced by the National Film Board of Canada (and it is available on VHS through them), and benefits both from an intelligent script and sharp direction by Spry. Cariou's character evolves in different ways during the course of the film; he's a flawed hero who is guilty of bad judgement and moral mistakes, but ultimately seeks redemption in the truth. There is also a pleasing performance by Jayne Eastwood as his increasingly bitter wife, and some interesting work by veteran actor Barry Morse as the head of the factory.
The video release of this title plays on the fact that it stars Barry Morse, who has lived in Canada for quite some time. The production of this film is very dated and on video looked more like a documentary in parts. Although the principle of the story is very good I can't help but feel I wish I hadn't spent the 1 hour and 15 minutes watching this, Barry Morse is hardly in it and the ending is dreadful. Over the end titles we get a spoken list of people who have died from poisonous gases and although this is indeed an extremely important issue the scene that follows is that "this story and its characters are entirely fictitious" making the whole thing seem a waste of time.
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