Saturday, November 9, 2019

Short take: Ralph L. Thomas' based-on-true-life tale, APPRENTICE TO MURDER, hits Blu-ray

The oddball Canada/USA/ Norway co-production from 1988, APPRENTICE TO MURDER, proves an unusual but worthwhile film for several reasons. It's based on actual events that happened in Pennsylvania back in the 1920s involving an itinerant preacher/religious healer and the 16-year-old boy he takes in and trains as his assistant.

As played -- and very well -- by Donald Sutherland as the "healer" and Chad Lowe as his disciple, these two characters control the movie and keep us interested in the bizarre plot. But it's the film's attitude toward religion and faith healing that is the hook here. Instead of the usual Elmer Gantry-ish fakery and corruption, this healer seems awfully good at what he does, and so we are as taken with him and his work as is his flock. And Mr. Sutherland (above) is at all times convincing.

As directed by Ralph L. Thomas (Ticket to Heaven) and co-written by Wesley Moore and Alan Scott, the film moves slowly and keeps us as off-balance as it does its hero, played as an intelligent, searching innocent by Mr. Lowe, shown above. Its take on the preacher and his religion is consistently ambivalent, which forces us to try to view and understand things from a different perspective than the usual, and the film's odd but effective mix of religion, romance and (possible) horror renders it one of the more unusual of genre-mashers and/or genre-benders

Mia Sara provides the romance, while Norwegian actor Knut Husebø (above) makes an impressively scary neighbor who helps brings all the pieces of this oddball puzzle together. From Arrow Video, distributed in the USA via MVD Entertainment Group, Apprentice to Murder hit the street earlier this week -- for purchase and (I hope, somewhere) for rental. (Do watch the informative bonus feature on the Blu-ray, featuring Kat Ellinger's take on this interesting movie.)

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