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The Molly Maguires

The Molly Maguires on DVD

Richard Harris stars with Sean Connery in this historical spy drama about Irish coal miners in 1876 Pennsylvania.

Harris is the spy, or more accurately an undercover cop, sent to the mine to get a job and get to know the miners to help track down the notorious Maguires, a group of terrorists who seem to blow up the mines whenever they get the chance. The Maguires are led by Connery and are portrayed quite sympathetically despite the fact that they were terrorists operating in the same basic way the Islamist terrorists do today.

But that’s Hollywood for you; never let facts get in the way of a good yarn. Bonnie and Clyde were apparently bloodthirsty crooks, too, but that didn’t stop the movie about them from being a great yarn.

But we digress…

Harris is initially met with suspicion, since from the look of his gentle hands it doesn’t appear as if he’s done a day of honest work in his life. But he works hard and he fits in for the most part, and soon he’s gaining the confidence of the very people he’s out to bust. Part of the reason is that he’s good at his job (of spy, though he undoubtedly makes a good coal miner as well or he wouldn’t have fit in as well as he did) – and even risks his life to save other Maguires when push comes to shove.

Of course he’s really there to organize a bust, but there are times when we start to wonder whether or not he’s going to fulfill his mandate or whether he’ll throw his career away and join the Maguires, with whom he’s bonding.

Connery is always great, but this is really Harris’ movie. Samantha Eggar is given co-star billing for what’s basically a supporting role as Harris’ landlady and, hopefully to Harris, love interest. She’s very appealing in the role.

But regardless of how the filmmakers try to sugar coat the Maguires, the bottom line has to be that they were nothing more than terrorists and therefore the authorities did the right thing by trying to bring them to justice. Do they succeed? Watch the movie!

The movie is very well done and very believable. The locations were apparently real (if they weren’t, they spent a bundle on the sets!) and make you really appreciate not having to work under those awful conditions of dark, dirt, sweat and danger. The cinematography is first rate and gives the film a wonderfully rich look.

We also loved Henry Mancini’s musical score, which seems very John Williams-ish – not that Mancini ever needed to be imitative (and Williams was just getting going then anyway).

The DVD’s very good, though Spartan. The picture is presented in anamorphic widescreen, 16x9 TV compatible, and the picture quality is very good. Colors (lots of blacks and greens and browns) are excellent, full and rich and deep, and the image is very sharp overall. James Wong Howe’s shots are done justice here.

Audio is Dolby Digital ……. And it’s fine. Most movies from this era didn’t pay too much attention to audio quality unless they were big spectaculars or musicals, and such is the case here. The days of digital sound upping the quality ante of even the most minor film were still years away when The Molly Maguires – and so many other films - was made.

Alas, there are no extras here.

The Molly Maguires, from Paramount Home Entertainment
min. Anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1, 16x9 TV compatible), Dolby Digital _____
Starring Sean Connery, Richard Harris, Samantha Eggar
Produced by Martin Ritt and Walter Bernstein
Written by Walter Bernstein, directed by Martin Ritt.


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