STUDIO: Koch Vision
MSRP: $14.98
RUNNING TIME: 105 minutes


The Pitch

A young African American family realizes that life sucks.

The Humans

Cicely Tyson, Paul Winfield, Carmen Best, James Best and Spencer Bradford

The Nutshell

Sounder is an admirable family film that honors its source material while reasonably portraying race sensitive material. It’s 1933 and the Great Depression has taken its toll on the Deep South. Nathan Morgan is busting his ass to keep his family afloat. But, crippling conditions are pushing his family to starvation. So, he steals a pig off a local landowner’s farm. When he’s caught, Nathan has to go to jail. What will the Morgan family and their dog do to get by?

The Lowdown

is a unique film that challenged the likes of The Godfather and Cabaret at the 1972 Academy Awards. The young David Morgan and his dog headline a story that’s as simple as it is complex. Never does the story drift into familiar boy and his dog territory. Hell, the dog is incidental character for half of the picture. The dog’s more of a symbol of the family’s integrity.

Sounder enters into this weird territory that draws comparisons to a modern film like George Washington. It’s a rare look at the dynamics of being poor in America. David Morgan spends most of the film trying to make sense of the events taking place. There’s no big schemes to save the day or rescue his father. It’s a kid that just wants to know what the hell is going on. When push comes to shove, he always ends up retreating back to his dog.

Director Martin Ritt does an amazing job creating a realistic world for a kid friendly movie. Adults don’t have all the answers and the good guys don’t win at the end of the day. When the local sheriff turns away from the Morgans or talks down to them, even small children know what’s going on. It’s a realistic portrayal of second class citizenship in the land of the free. These clever suggestions in the performances help score the quiet nuances that populate this film.

Sounder has found a special place as one of the most underrated films of the 1970s. One part children’s film and one part meditation on race relations, Sounder never pulls back. Through the children that populate this film, you get a harrowing look at being powerless in America. The color line is a noose that tightens around information and feelings of security. By the end of the film, you know what it is to be helpless before a power that you can’t understand.

The positive side to all of this is that the film retains hope. In spite of its rather soft depictions of violence against African Americans, the film is still incredibly realistic. What makes it more impressive is that the film’s main funding came from the Mattel Corporation. Name a toymaker today that would be willing to fund a two hour dialogue driven film about race. This is an important movie and it demands a rental.

The Package

has a pretty strong transfer with no audio dropout. The sole special feature is a trailer for the film’s theatrical release. Compared to the first DVD release, the A/V Quality improvement is reason enough to pick up the disc. The amazing cinematography demands to be seen on a fine monitor with optimized settings. If you were hoping for Blu-Ray, then it’s tough shit for you. This is the best this film will see for some time.

7.0 out of 10