Tackling Harper Lee's novel, Stanley Kramer would have hit us over the head with a hammer, so perhaps we can be grateful that Mulligan merely suffocates with righteousness. The film sits somewhere between the bogus virtue of Kramer's The Defiant Ones and the poetry of Laughton's Night of the Hunter, combining racial intolerance with the nightmares of childhood, born out of Kennedy's stand on civil rights and Martin Luther King's marching. In Alabama in the early '30s, Peck is a Lincoln-like lawyer who defends a black (Peters) against a charge of rape, while loony-tune Duvall scares the shit out of Peck's kids. It looks like a storybook of the Old South, with dappled sunlight and woodwormy porches, and Peck is everyone's favourite uncle. But screenwriter Horton Foote does less well by Harper Lee's novel than Lillian Hellman did by Foote's The Chase for Arthur Penn. That movie really was a pressure-cooker; this one is always just off the boil.
Cast and crew