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Here we are 30 years after Watergate, and Chuck Colson has become a leading advocate for prison reform, civil rights, and other benevolence issues. By his own admission, Chuck was a "win at all costs" hatchet man for Nixon. While serving a prison sentence for his role in the scandal, Colson found the ultimate forgiveness by giving his life to Jesus Christ. After all this time, I strongly disagree with the previous comment casting doubt on Colson's life change. What more can the man do to demonstrate that his about face in life is real? The movie was extremely popular in its day, and accurately tells the story of his conversion to Christianity. In a day when everyone is calling for character and integrity in the public arena, Chuck Colson's story is a refreshingly happy ending to a very bad beginning.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Charles Colson was probably one of the most controversial, yet colorful
of the Nixon gang who was caught up in the Watergate Scandal. He
entered Bartlett's Familiar Quotations with his thoughts on motivation,
those being "when you've got them by the gonads, their hearts and minds
will follow". A guy like that Machiavelli would have learned to love.
Dean Jones plays the controversial White House Counsel to the President who was in charge of the infamous White House Plumbers group. Though Colson was not directly connected to the Watergate break-in he was inextricably linked to the theft at Daniel Ellsberg's psychiatrist's office and did his jail time for that.
But before that Colson became in that overused phrase 'born again' becoming an evangelical Christian and part of a Washington Prayer Group headed by Democratic Senator Harold Hughes. In those days before the founding of the Moral Majority by Jerry Falwell you actually could be a Democrat and an evangelical.
This film is an interesting exercise in sophistry, so much so that Colson as played by Dean Jones comes out a martyr for his faith, not a guy who was ruthless beyond all bounds of decency in pursuit of political aims.
The story of Born Again is not about Colson and Watergate, the bulk of it is his time in what looks like Club Fed. Believe me, I'm not sure if this guy had been in general population in a place like Leavenworth his story might not have come out the same. Colson is in a prison that the military are in charge of and these guys look like the security is minimal. The story here is about his deciding that what God intended him to do is found a prison ministry. He's left with few options because he's been disbarred.
What really got me was that the power of prayer is supposed to be proved by the fact that Jones's protector in the joint Raymond St. Jacques is granted parole after the group all prays for him. I mean, really.
I can't get into Chuck Colson's mind and know if his conversion was real or became real at a certain point. That's the trouble with these kind of films, the subject's conversion is based on faith and you're supposed take that on face value.
Anne Francis is Colson's wife, the second Mrs. Colson the film doesn't mention that he was married before. The film was directed by Irving Rapper who was one of those folks from the big studio system days in Hollywood who was taking any work he could get. Among his credits are those Bette Davis classics Now Voyager and The Corn Is Green. Born Again doesn't come close to, not even light years as good as those films.
Dana Andrews plays the businessman who witnesses and converts Jones, Jay Robinson plays his law partner and attorney. Born Again was the farewell film for George Brent who had not been on the screen for about 20 years when he did this film. He did not look well, he died the following year and I suspect this short role as Judge Gerhard Gessell was done because he need money for medical expenses. All of these guys were well past their prime.
If you're a born again believer than this film is for you. I think the rest of us will be scratching our heads.
Spiritual awakenings and conversions are probably the most difficult
subjects to effectively portray on screen. And much as I have enjoyed
many of Dean Jones' performances down through the years, I can't say
that he made Colson's conversion dramatically credible to me. I realize
that this movie was not intended to tell the story of Watergate, yet in
all honesty this chapter of Colson's life really doesn't make any sense
except in the context of Watergate.
The movie's heart is in the right place but when it's all said and done, that's not enough reason to spend two hours of your life watching mediocrity.
I had to laugh at the comment from 2002 which seemed to say that (1) Colson's pre-Christian life was sleazy, so (2) therefore, his post-conversion life was not to be taken seriously. Our correspondent from Maine could not have missed the point any more completely than that. But for someone who evidently despises the "Born Again bunch" I suppose it is not surprising.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It is a shame that the once-great Irving Rapper, who directed such
classics as NOW, VOYAGER, THE CORN IS GREEN, and THE BRAVE ONE, put
paid to his career with two extremely lurid and exploitative films:
1970's THE CHRISTINE JORGENSEN STORY, and this lame attempt to hop on
the Watergate bandwagon.
Let's face it: Alan J Pakula's ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN set the bar pretty high when it comes to Watergate, which is probably why so few movies came out about what is probably the biggest domestic scandal of the Twentieth Century in America. Pakula's epic was so good, in fact, that I find myself getting caught up in the suspense of the story even though I know how it turns out.
Which brings us to Rapper and this mess. I am not sure what drew Rapper to this project, but I presume that the real Charles Colson never got anywhere near the set, because Rapper was a gay man who in his later years made little secret of his sexuality, and he and Colson would have got along like oil and water. Though it seems as though someone was looking to cover Colson's ass; his role in the Watergate scandal, if you believe this film, was as something of a stooge who went along with his peers, not quite understanding what he was doing. History has long since debunked that myth; Colson was one of the major players in the Nixon administration, and his role in Watergate was pretty well-known even then.
So this movie starts out with dishonesty and then tries for redemption but somehow does not quite make it there either. The "born again" Colson is about as interesting as a raw potato, Dean Jones spends the entire second half of the movie looking as if he wished he were anywhere but on that set (which by then he might have been), and the dialogue is so stilted and forced that at some moments it makes the viewer extremely uncomfortable and at others it draws laughs.
Perhaps Rapper thought he saw something that was not there; perhaps he just could not bring himself to give up making movies and this was all he could get. I don't know. I just think it's a sad finale to a once- great career.
Charles Colson who was perhaps the sleaziest of all of the members of Richard Nixons core of Watergate gang members is portrayed here by Dean Jones most widely known for his many roles in Disney films. Much of this film deals with Colsons conversion as a born again Christian. The actual Watergate activities are only touched on. If you're looking for a film about the Watergate scandal this isn't one of the better ones. Dean turns in an admirable performance but yet doesn't come off well as a person of Colsons character, which for the most part was that of a villain. Any one who knows of the Watergate affair and knew of Charles Colson will look upon this story with a bit of skepticism over his claim to have become a born again Christian when the heat was suddenly turned up on him . Those who are deep into the Christian message will no doubt enjoy this film as it is pretty much a commercial for becoming `Born Again'
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