The River

Completing the trifecta of “Save the Farm” movies of 1984 is this Mark Rydell film starring Mel Gibson and Sissy Spacek. Like Country, the Jessica Lange starring film earlier in the project, “The River” was set in contemporary times and featured a story about the economic hardships faced by family farmers. The 1980s were a crises point for middle level farmers in the U.S., a combination of easy credit in the 1970s combined with expanding markets had encouraged heavy borrowing. The good times however could not last. The Farm Crisis became a political hot potato and the policies of the Reagan Administration to address it were seen as harsh,and the farmers make effective political hay out of those solutions. While there are elements of the debt issue included in this film, most of the hardship the family in this story endures is a result of natural and man made water issues.

river

The film is book-ended with two dramatic moments where the Garvey family farm is being flooded. At one point, evil corporate type Scott Glenn says that sooner or later the River is going to get them. He may be right but the inspiration behind this story is that the farmers will continue to struggle for the life that they see as their legacy. The river however is only one of the many challenges the family in this story faces.

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The Bounty

The first weekend of May is now the official start of the summer movie season. Back in 1996, Twister and Mission Impossible managed to move up the crowded summer release schedule by almost three weeks. In 1984, the summer blockbusters still waited until the end of the month. Dramas and comedies dominated the box office until the big budget spectacles arrived Memorial Day weekend. “The Bounty” is a prestige piece that originated in the minds of Sir David Lean and his longtime collaborator Robert Bolt. The team that gave us “Lawrence of Arabia”, “Doctor Zhivago” and “Ryan’s Daughter” had imagined a two part film to rival those impressive predecessors. Those plans were too great for the studio that was backing the project and their film fell through, although the star cast as William Bligh stayed attached to the picture and was eventually cast in this version.

the-bounty-1984Casting is one of the attractions of this film from thirty years ago. Two future Academy Award winners are prominently featured in the movie, as were two future box office titans. It was also one of the last feature films to star the legendary Lawrence Olivier, himself an Oscar winner and a figure from the glory days of old Hollywood and British Theater. With so much going for it, there is plenty of reason to ask why it was a disappointment. It was not remembered at the end of the year and it was a flop when it comes to getting a return on investment. It is however a very effective telling of the well known mutiny story. Continue reading