Monday, May 15, 2023

Happy as the Grass Was Green (1973)

          Long on humanistic sociocultural messaging and short on cinematic polish, Happy as the Grass Was Green—subsequently retitled Hazel’s People—uses tensions stemming from antiwar activism as a device for exploring the gulf between an isolated Mennonite community in Pennsylvania and the larger world beyond the community’s borders. Working from a novel by Merle Good, writer-director Charles Davis—a journeyman Irish actor who periodically worked behind the camera—finds a clumsy way into the story. After a murkily described confrontation between activists and cops during which a young man from the Mennonite community was killed, the dead man’s brother and a non-Mennonite friend travel to Pennsylvania for the funeral. Once there, the non-Mennonite friend, longhaired rebel Eric (Graham Beckel), becomes infatuated with the simple life—and with Hazel (Rachel Thomas), the pretty and willful daughter of a Mennonite family. Eric extends his stay in Pennsylvania indefinitely as he learns about the community, finds solace in Christianity, and contemplates making a permanent home with the Mennonites.
          To characterize the plot machinations that complicate Eric’s journey as trite would be to undervalue the sincerity of this enterprise. Happy as the Grass Was Green suffers from bland technical execution and dull pacing and uneven acting, but it’s plain everyone involved tried to convey truthfulness. Apparently only three actors—Beckel, Pat Hingle, and Geraldine Page—came from outside the Mennonite community, so it’s noteworthy that the narrative trains a critical eye on its subject matter. Some characters are depicted as cruel and judgmental and petty, while others are shown exploiting illegal immigrants for cheap labor. So even though the picture ultimately venerates the Mennonites as pious indviduals who center compassion and work in their lives, Happy as the Grass Was Green does not echo the sanctimonious proseltyzing one too often encounters in bad Christian films of the ’70s. As a dramatic experience, Happy as the Grass Was Green underwhelms, but as an attempt at what might be deemed religious anthropology, it’s admirable. That said, one wishes Davis had featured Page more prominently since she is so much more skilled than her fellow cast members, with all due respect to Hingle’s comforting avuncular quality and to Beckel’s earnestness.

Happy as the Grass Was Green: FUNKY

Tuesday, May 9, 2023

6.5 Million Views!

          Hey there, groovy people! Even though daily posting on this blog has been in the rear-view mirror for some time, its wonderful that so many of you continue to visit (and revisit) the content here at Every 70s Movie. There's still plenty of material to come in the future, and to that point Ive got my retinas aimed at a handful of obscure features that recently became available for viewing. Not all of them will be winners, but now that weve all gone this deep into our favorite cinematic decade, its all about building as complete a perspective as possible. And who knows? There could still be an elusive masterpiece or two out there somewhere. Plus I always keep the door open for periodic explorations beyond conventional theatrical features, so dont be surprised if you see reviews of the occasional documentary, foreign film, or made-for-TV movie. Oh, and while I have your attention, pardon a quick plug for my endeavors outside this blog. I recently completed an overhaul of my professional website, and I invite you to check it out at
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