1951 - United States - 86 minutes
Writers - Russell Rouse and Clarence Greene
Directors - Leo C. Popkin and Russell Rouse
Internet Movie Database User Rating - 8.0/10 - Link to IMDB
My Rating - 4 of 5 Stars

As a boy growing up in the 1950's South being surrounded by racial and religious prejudices (My father made Archie Bunker seem like a bleeding-heart liberal.) I remember being impressed and educated by seeing two great little films. The Well was one and Storm Warning was the other. Both were made in 1951. I guess you could say that Storm Warning was an A-movie as it featured Ginger Rogers, Ronald Reagan, and Doris Day as the stars.

The Well was definitely a B-movie, but its subject matter gave it a step-up on most of the B-movies of the time. Keep in mind that this was a period in time in which people went to double features and the local movie house and drive-ins as television was just an infant and not available except to a few. B-movies were generally low-budget films cranked out for more or less mindless entertainment.

The plot is pretty standard. A little Black girl is on her way to school and wanders into a field to pick some flowers where she falls into an abandoned well. The search for the little girl is begun. A man in town to visit his uncle - a rich and powerful businessman - who was seen talking to the girl comes under suspicion. As he is "grilled" by the police, the uncle storms into the station and demands his release to no avail. As the uncle is leaving the station, he is questioned by the little girl's father who has heard of the nephew. There is a scuffle, and the uncle falls and is injured. As news of the incident is spread and embellished with false rumors, all hell breaks loose. Just as the town is on the verge of an all-out racial riot, a boy rushes in to announce that he has discovered the little girl's things next to the well. From that point on, all the town's energies are concentrated upon saving the little girl. The uncle provides heavy equipment from his business, and the nephew - who just happens to be a mining expert - is convinced to save the day.

All of this is carried out in over-the-top B-movie melodramatic fashion supported by just about every '50's cliché character including the strong lawman leader; his sensible love interest; the businessman who runs the town; the pleading, helpless mother; the racially biased beat cop; and young people of both races who run rampant destroying property and beating on each other.

So why the four stars? The time. The content. The message. Since the beginning of film, moviemakers have strived to bring education to their audiences through entertainment. This film surely deserves recognition for demonstrating the evils of racial prejudice and rumor in an effective and entertaining fashion.

Neil Turner
February 26, 2007

The Well