Based on a true story, The Well plays like two separate movies. The first half is a frightening essay on mob mentality and racial tensions; the N-word is tossed about freely (as is the word "ofay"), and the violence is surprisingly intense for the times. The pace with which things start to turn ugly in the town is all too believable. The movie's second half is a nerve-racking race against time as the rescuers struggle to free the girl from the well. The pace and direction of the film help maintain a great deal of tension from start to finish, and despite the obscure cast, the performances are uniformly good. Morgan's indignation and fear at the hands of the police, the near-hysteria of the girl's mother (Norman), the sheriff's (Rober) struggle to maintain peace in his town -- all are extremely credible and absorbing. Rober was a B-grade leading man before his early death; he was hailed as "the next Bogart," but really seems more like a poor man's William Holden. The story of The Well must have been considered rather daring for the time, addressing race issues in such an open way (reminiscent of Joseph Mankiewicz's No Way Out). Co-director and screenwriter Robert Rouse also wrote the screenplay for 1950's D.O.A. (as well as 1966's The Oscar). It would seem like a given that a writer who would take on such a progressive script would have liberal leanings -- given the climate of the times, it makes one wonder if Rouse was soon caught up in the machinery of the Hollywood blacklist. Though it seems a bit heavy-handed at times, this film's message is still fresh, relevant, and alarming nearly 50 years later.
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