NOON WINE

USA, 83 minutes


director.gif (905 bytes) Michael Fields

CAST

Fred Ward - Royal Earle Thompson
Pat Hingle - Homer T. Hatch
Lise Hilboldt - Ellie Thompson
James Harrell - Tom Allbright
Wayne Tippet - Mr. Burleigh
Billie Keller - Mrs. McClellan
Stellan Skarsgård - Olaf Helton


TELEVISION PREMIERE

January 21, 1985


SYNOPSIS

1890s Texas, a stranger shows up at the small dairy farm of Royal and Ellie Thompson. He’s an English-speaking Swede from North Dakota; he’s competent, strong, and good at farming. Nine years later, a second stranger, also from North Dakota, Homer Hatch, arrives and lives are changed.

 

IMAGES

REVIEWS:

NY Times:
The year is 1896. A tall, strange man with a Swedish accent comes to the run-down Thompson farm in sweltering South Texas looking for a job. He turns out to be an invaluable worker but insists on being left alone. As his own life becomes more comfortable, Mr. Thompson carefully respects the man's wishes. But one day, nine years later, another stranger comes looking for the man, and Mr. Thompson's world is destroyed, almost while he isn't looking.

Like the Katherine Anne Porter story on which it is based, the film version is crammed with haunting reverberations. Unconcerned with the latest in passing social problems, it explores timeless psychological truths. Everything seems reasonably normal, while at the same time nothing can be taken for granted. Its geographical boundaries are tightly constrained, but its insights cover the whole of an experience that is peculiarly American.

Noon Wine was adapted and directed by a young film maker named Michael Fields, who is making one of the more impressive television debuts of recent years. He has worked with Merchant-Ivory Productions and was assistant to the director James Ivory on the film ''The Bostonians.'' He has spent the last few years writing the teleplay and researching the period for Noon Wine.

The time and intense care devoted to ''Noon Wine'' are reflected in each of its 80-plus minutes. The casting is flawless. Fred Ward portrays Royale Thompson with a kind of laconic intensity that is somehow as appealing as it is shifty. This is a simple man, wily if need be, who is finally overwhelmed by complicated truths. As his wife Ellie, Lise Hilboldt manages to project enormous strength while constantly teetering on the brink of emotional chaos. The Swedish actor Stellan Skarsgård, bearing some resemblance to the early Max Von Sydow, contributes a fascinating Olaf Helton, a man painfully torn by what could be either pathological hostility or extreme shyness or both. And Pat Hingle comes on briefly but memorablty as Homer T. Hatch for one of the bigger-than-life, snorting, spitting, guffawing villains that he does so well.

This is not a razzle-dazzle film. Noon Wine is relatively small in scale and subdued in tone. But its overall effect is more unsettling than all of the flashy, calculated violence of, say, Brian DePalma's Scarface. An intelligent and passionate commitment can be discerned in every aspect of the production, including the photography by Juan Ruiz Anchia and the designs by Charles Bennet and Hilary Rosenfeld. Mr. Fields and all concerned have brought forth something very special indeed.

Critic David J. Moore:
Noon Wine
was previously adapted for television in 1966 by Sam Peckinpah, starring Jason Robards. This version was adapted and directed by Michael Fields, and it’s a gut puncher of a western. It looks at the simplicity of life on a farm, and examines a loveless marriage, and touches on masculinity and various other themes that manage to stir up a strange emotional stew that settles deep as you watch it. Ward and Skarsgård are fantastic in their roles, and for an 83-minute feature, this one grinds itself into your psyche. It’s a real gem if you’re willing to take the journey.

IMDB Review:
There is an earlier version with Jason Robards, Olivia DeHavilland and Theodore Bikel which captures the theme of the story but comes out a bit stodgy in spite of the cast. This feature with Fred Ward, Stellan Skarsgård, Pat Hingle and the very beautiful and talented Lise Hilboldt captures much of the shadow nuances of Porter's original work. Ward is especially effective as the turn of the century farmer whose life is transformed by the mysterious Swede who won't talk, works like a horse and plays the harmonica. Skarsgård is superb as the taciturn Swede. Great support comes from veteran character actor Pat Hingle as the villainous bounty hunter and craggy James Gammon as the sheriff. But the bright light is the delicate but solid performance of Lise Hilboldt, as the wife who is caught in the middle of mixed feelings about the mysterious Swede, her marriage to her mercurial husband and her own conflicts.

Sky Movies:
This is a haunting, well-told tale that will hold your attention as it reveals some nasty secrets.

People:
A strange story: A Swede who's either shy or psycho (or both) wanders onto a poor Texas dirt farm and whips the place into shape. Then a stranger arrives and tells the boss that the Swede is really a lunatic who killed a man with a pitchfork. Noon Wine is a stark and disturbing show but well-done with fine performances by Fred Ward , Lise Hilboldt and Stellan Skarsgård.