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For Robbing the Dead is a story of compassion - compassion toward those who may seem the least deserving of Christian love. It follows the story of Henry Heath, a law officer in 1862 Salt Lake City. Heath finds himself responsible for the well-being of a prisoner whom he despises - an impoverished French immigrant named Jean Baptiste who is convicted of robbing the graves of the recently deceased. Baptiste is exiled to Antelope Island in the Great Salt Lake. With no one willing to look after this man, Henry Heath becomes Baptiste's sole defense against the hostile isolation of Antelope Island and the contempt of an entire community. Through his somewhat reluctant service, Heath's heart softens and his own sorrows find relief. Written by
After the first take of the scene where Henry Heath (John Freeman) roughly interrogates Jean Baptiste (David Stevens), Stevens, a "Method" actor angrily berated Freeman for not choking him hard enough. The second take had to be cut short when Stevens could not get out any lines because Freeman's choking was too effective. Stevens had to tap out rather than deliver his lines. "Turns out you can't say OK, OK, when a cowboy is really choking you" said Stevens. "From now on we will try acting". See more »
The movie is set in Utah during the Civil War (although no one in the film seems to be aware of this). It is about a Lawman (played very effectively by John Freeman, an actor a very short film resume) who finds himself responsible for protecting a convicted grave robber.
That's it. That's the plot. Can an engaging film be made that has unknown actors and actresses in the main roles with this plot? Yes. The story moves along well. The convicted grave robber (nothing as exciting as digging them up to eat them--he just steals their clothes) is played by David Stevens (another unknown) as a not-too-bright little weasel of a man. However, his views on his "crimes" provide some of the thoughtful moments of the film.
Much of the film involves how Freeman deals with others in his community--some who are compassionate and others who are not. All of the supporting actors and actresses contribute. Margot Kidder plays Baptist's desperate and slightly off-kilter wife (who he loves), Barry Corbin has a nice turn as the judge who also has his own history he is trying to live with, and Jon Gries (the older brother in Napoleon Dynamite) is a hoot as a hired gunman. Bernard Hermann makes a small appearance. Unusual film in that the major roles are played by people you've never seen, but the supporting roles are done by people you will recognize--all of whom have solid film careers.
The "gunfight" between Freeman and Gries is about the best I have ever seen. Realistic.
The film score is very nice, and the photography is beautiful.
I like films that are done well on little money. This is one of those. It is certainly worth an evening.
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