Director Stuart Rosenberg’s ambitious 1970 drama is a painstaking, involving and intelligent political allegory, with meaty roles for Paul Newman, his wife Joanne Woodward and Anthony Perkins, who reward audiences with careful, winning performances.
Newman plays cynical drifter Rheinhardt, gets a job as an announcer at an American Deep South right-wing radio station called WUSA (hence the title!), where a conspiracy is being hatched.
Woodward plays Geraldine, the woman of easy virtue who shacks up with Newman’s character, and Perkins plays Rainey, an ineffectual do-gooding neighbour who is used as a pawn in the game by the powers that be. Rheinhardt’s cool detachment is challenged by Geraldine and by Rainey, who becomes aware of WUSA’s sinister agenda.
WUSA also stars Laurence Harvey, Pat Hingle, Don Gordon, Robert Quarry, Clifton James, David Huddleston, Cloris Leachman, Moses Gunn, Bruce Cabot, Louis Gossett Jr, Michael Anderson Jr and Jesse Vint.
That top cast is on blistering form, and the movie is packed with telling moments. All that’s missing are a really incisive script and dynamic direction. Robert Stone’s screenplay is based on his own powerful Sixties novel A Hall of Mirrors.
Also in the cast are Susan Batson, Hal Baylor, Lucille Benson, Jim Boles, Jerry Catron, Don Gordon, Paul Hampton, Wayne Rogers, Diane Ladd, Leigh French, B J Mason, Laird Stuart, Geraldine West and Skip Young.
It’s one of four films Newman made with director Stuart Rosenberg. It is Newman’s second movie with Rosenberg after Cool Hand Luke (1967) and they went on to do Pocket Money (1972) and The Drowning Pool (1975) together.
RIP David Huddleston, who died on 2 August 2016, aged 85. He is remembered for the title roles in both Santa Claus: The Movie and The Big Lebowski as well as playing in Rio Lobo, Blazing Saddles and the 2005 The Producers.
© Derek Winnert 2015 Classic Movie Review 2958
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