Bound for Glory (VHS, 1993, Contemporary Classics)

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This Land Was Made Fer You and Me: Bound for Glory

Mar 29, 2007
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:David Carradine, Story, Songs

Cons:More people should see this movie

The Bottom Line: A decent bio-pic of Depression-era troubadour Woodrow Wilson "Woody" Guthrie. History and country music fans will enjoy.


Bound For Glory (1976)

"You'll get pie in the sky when you die - that's a lie!" old song

This review is dedicated to a guy who shall remain nameless, a writer I formerly respected but who turned out to be a fanatical shrew, railing against the world and offering no solutions except to escalate the level of rhetoric far beyond the realm of absurdity. While I'm sure in his own mind he feels he is a modern-day Woody Guthrie casting slings and arrows against injustice, he is merely a man in love with his own voice; a pettifogging bore who needs to get back on his meds.

Bound For Glory tells the story of Woody Guthrie, the famous folk singer of the Great Depression, purportedly based on his autobiography of the same name. Rather than a strict by-the-numbers biography, the movie more or less gives you a glimpse into the character of Guthrie as a grown man, traveling and playing his rough-edged folk songs that extolled the virtues of the common man and criticized the lack of compassion of the various establishments: law, business, government, and religion.

The scope of the movie is vast, covering the United States and taking 147 minutes, or about two-and-a-half hours to tell its tale. I felt like the story meandered about like Mark Twain's description of the Mississippi River, taking its good old time and not making much headway as it loops back and forth over pretty much the same territory. Surprisingly, the movie doesn’t seem all that long as it basically mirrors David Carradine's laid back performance as Woody Guthrie, an easy going guy with a magnetic personality.

Woody Guthrie was the guy who lived the life lionized by so many singers since - Ramblin Jack Elliot, Bob Dylan, Judi Collins, Joan Baez, on down to Bruce Springsteen. Guthrie rode the rails, slept in the hobo jungle, sang the songs, and lived the life they all sang about. Probably as real a slice of Americana as ever lived, compared to the phoniness of the 60s–era protest singers who wore working man's blue jeans but never participated in honest work, Woody Guthrie stood up against what he saw as injustice against the migrant workers as worked his way picking fruit in Californ-I-A.

Guthrie wrote hundreds of songs but never lost the common touch. The film shows the many vicissitudes suffered by migrant workers during the Great Depression and the journey from the dust bowl of Texas and Oklahoma to California – the Promised Land – with its squalid migrant camps; not enough to eat; the harsh treatment dealt out by railroad bulls and strike breakers; the patronizing treatment by the well-to-do; all combined to polarize Guthrie to the side of the downtrodden, in those days it meant Union, and Guthrie wrote and performed several songs extolling the virtues of membership.

Director Hal Ashby stops just short of canonizing Guthrie, mentioning his abandonment of his wife and children and various liaisons with women along the way, but the movie does tend to lionize a flawed man many accused of being a Socialist.

David Carradine (Kung Fu, The Long Riders) is at his best as Guthrie and he makes the film enjoyable to watch. Playing his own guitar and singing Guthrie's many infectious folk songs, and in a kind of unmusical tone, reminiscent of Woody Guthrie's own. Besides David Carradine, who fills up about 80% of the movie, important performances are brought forward by Ronny Cox (Deliverance) and Randy Quaid.

The title comes from a song of Guthrie's, This Train, whose first line is This Train is Bound For Glory, This Train. An important film that documents the Great Depression from a different angle than you usually get. Bound for Glory would be a great double feature with The Grapes of Wrath.

The MGM DVD is as devoid of special features as they usually are, giving only the theatrical trailer, a couple of foreign subtitle selections and an old-fashioned paper insert, they somewhat pompously call a "collectible booklet;" but the film is presented in all its 2.35:1 Technicolor glory. Any fan of history or folk music will want to see Bound for Glory.


Recommend this product? Yes

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