The Well (1951)

Genres - Drama  |   Run Time - 85 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Although modern audiences are likely to find The Well somewhat dated, it actually holds up much better than many other "socially conscious" films of the period (or of many other periods, for that matter). Social message films present two problems: how to appropriately get across their messages without pounding the audience over the head and how to make sure that the message doesn't drown out the drama. Well succeeds better than many, perhaps because even as it is being quite manipulative, it is offering an engrossing dramatic situation that could hardly fail to keep the audience's attention. Actually, it presents two such situations, a fact which ultimately presents a different problem: Well plays like two different films. The first part of the film, which focuses on racial issues, leads to a climactic race riot that is surprisingly powerful; the second part focuses on the importance of community, and because it effectively concentrates on the tense struggle to rescue a girl trapped in a well, it has its own power. But, despite the fact that the two parts are clearly connected, Well still feels jumbled together. Co-directors Leo C. Popkin and Russell Rouse couldn't solve this problem, but they did make sure that the two halves are exciting on their own. The cast includes some professionals (such as a very good Harry Morgan) but also a number of non-pros; the latter may lake polish, but there's an energy to their work that is appropriate to the project.