A labor union organizer comes to an embattled mining community brutally and violently dominated and harassed by the mining company.

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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 2 wins & 7 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
...
Elma Radnor
...
Danny Radnor
...
...
Sephus Purcell
...
Hickey
...
Tom Griggs
...
C.E. Lively
...
Hillard Elkins
...
Fausto
Nancy Mette ...
Bridey Mae
Jo Henderson ...
Mrs. Elkins
...
Cabell Testerman
Gary McCleery ...
Ludie
Maggie Renzi ...
Rosaria
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Storyline

Mingo County, West Virginia, 1920. Coal miners, struggling to form a union, are up against company operators and the gun thugs of the notorious Baldwin-Felts detective agency. Black and Italian miners, brought in by the company to break the strike, are caught between the two forces. UMWA organizer and dual-card Wobbly Joe Kenehan determines to bring the local, Black, and Italian groups together. While Kenehan and his story are fictional, the setting and the dramatic climax are historical; Sid Hatfield, Cabell C. Testerman, C. E. Lively and the Felts brothers were real-life participants, and 'Few Clothes' is based on a character active several years previously. Written by Susan C. Mitchell <susanm@indirect.com>, expanded by Silverwhistle

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

At the coal company they use you until you wear out See more »

Genres:

Drama | History

Certificate:

PG-13 | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

|

Release Date:

30 June 1988 (Australia)  »

Also Known As:

Azok a véres napok  »

Box Office

Budget:

$4,000,000 (estimated)

Gross:

$1,680,358 (USA)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Color:

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The film cast includes one Oscar winner: Chris Cooper and four Oscar nominees: James Earl Jones, Mary McDonnell, John Sayles and David Strathairn. See more »

Goofs

The steam locomotive used in "Matewan" was ex-New York, Chicago, and St. Louis Railway ("Nickel Plate Road") #765. It was a modern steam locomotive built in the 1940's and thus would not have existed at the time of the events depicted in "Matewan." See more »

Quotes

Hardshell Preacher: The Prince of Darkness is upon the land. Now in the Bible his name is Beezlebub, Lord of the Flies. Right now on Earth today his name is Bolshevist! Socialist! Communist! Union man! Lord of untruth, sower of evil seed, enemy of all that is good and pure and this creature walks among us. What are we going to do about it?
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Game On: Martin's Baby (1998) See more »

Soundtracks

FIRE IN THE HOLE
Lyrics by John Sayles and Mason Daring
Music by Mason Daring
(c) 1987 Daring Music/ASCAP
Sung by Hazel Dickens
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User Reviews

 
A greatly under-appreciated classic
28 December 2004 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

This 1987 film aims to document real events that concerned a small coal mining community (called Matewan) in West Virginia in 1920. The miners are trying to organize a union, much to the dismay of the company that employs them. All of the acting is great, including, in the starring role, Chris Cooper, (the Kansas City native who was the abusive father from American Beauty and who starred in another fantastic Sayles film from 1996, Lonestar), David Strathairn as the good-natured but stern police chief, and, in his only theatrical movie role ever (here at 14 years old), indie-folk legend Will Oldham, of Palace Music and Bonnie Prince Billie fame. He plays a preacher-in-training in the film, and does such a great job that it seems damn unfortunate for all of us that he didn't continue his acting career--though he would go on to make some great music, and continues to currently. It also features James Earl Jones, aka Darth Vader.

Anyway, the film is very honest, subtle and exquisite. You don't feel, as you do with many films churned out by Hollywood, that things have been altered and embellished for the sake of making it interesting--it's very natural, and it seems very real. You're confidant that Sayles is giving you the truth here, as best he can, through his visual style, restrained, natural dialogue and engaging historic atmosphere.

It's movies like this that renew my faith in period pieces. Important historical films at their best are able to capture a period and bring the audience as close as possible to experiencing the 'feel' of that time--I guess that kinda goes without saying though.


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