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Alleged (Blu-Ray)


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Charles Anderson (Nathan West) feels trapped writing for his deceased father’s meager newspaper and living in a tiny town (Dayton, TN) in steep decline. Local news is scarce in Dayton but in yonder Nashville the populist statesman and Christian fundamentalist William Jennings Bryan (Sen. Fred Thompson) stirs up the Tennessee legislature to pass an anti-evolution statute. At Robinson’s Drugstore a few local entrepreneurs, keen on a way to channel 20,000 or so folks into dying Dayton for a look-see, concoct a friendly scheme for the small town to host the “Trial of the Century” — they just need a teacher at the high school willing to claim that he taught evolution. John Scopes (Jamie Kolacki) obliges despite never having taught evolution to anybody that he can recall. When the notorious agnostic Clarence Darrow (Brian Dennehy) agrees to defend Scopes and meet the Great Commoner in a battle to see which theory of mankind’s origin is the fittest (the Bible’s or Darwin’s), the entire world shows up and Dayton becomes the center of the journalistic universe. Once in the midst of this staged event, however, Nathan is torn between his love for the more principled Rose Williams (Ashley Johnson), his fiancée, and the escalating moral compromises that he is asked to make as the eager protégé of H.L. Mencken of the Baltimore Sun (Colm Meaney), America’s most colorful and influential columnist. Complicating matters is Rose’s half-sister of mixed race, Abigail (Khori Faison), who local doctors feel is a candidate for sterilization to prevent her, on Darwinian grounds, from propagating her supposedly inferior genes. ALLEGED is a true story of conflicts that boiled over in 1925 but that remain simmering with us to this day — evolution and creation, the role of science in social policy, and media sensationalism motivated by religious and political biases on all sides. When the truth is at stake, Charles discovers, some lies just have to be told.

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Amazon.com: 26 reviews
20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Perfectly Fine Family Fare: An Introduction To Complex Topics Suitable For Younger Viewers Nov. 3 2011
By K. Harris - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Blu-ray
As the first release of the faith based film label Slingshot Pictures, "Alleged" certainly tackles one of the largest subjects imaginable. In 1925, the Scopes "Monkey Trial" (famously depicted in Inherit the Wind) unfolded in a small Tennessee town and debated whether evolution should be allowed to be taught in public schools. A massive confrontation that pitted science against theology and two of the most famed orators/lawyers of the period (Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan) against one another, the case was branded as "The Trial of the Century." I, for one, think it's an inspired idea to revisit the Scopes Trial from a modern vantage point as the play "Inherit the Wind" was written in 1955 and didn't really evoke all of the complexities inherent in the situation. But while "Alleged" does offer some insight into the background of this notorious event, it really doesn't attempt to be a definitive and comprehensive study of it either. The movie really centers on an ambitious local reporter who faces difficult decisions about his values and principles when pressed by an unscrupulous editor.

Likable Nathan West plays our intrepid young reporter, and Ashley Johnson is his equally appealing gal pal. As the Scopes trial is being engineered by local dignitaries to bring tourism and prosperity to the dying town, West also sees it as an opportunity to achieve big city success and notoriety. But at what cost? When Brian Dennehy (as Darrow) and Fred Dalton Thompson (as Jennings Bryan) square off, Colm Meaney (as Baltimore Sun editor H.L. Mencken) pushes him to dish the dirt for maximum provocation. But being enticed to the dark side has its price, and right wills out every time. The film lacks a bit of subtlety as Meaney is practically evil incarnate and the lead actors are too sweet and modernly sensible to be awarded anything but a happy ending. The film throws in a haphazard sideplot about eugenics and forced sterilization that happens to be dramatically and conveniently timed for maximum impact. It is just one of many important topics that take a backseat to the central gentle love story.

"Alleged" is certainly at its most effective when the trial is front and center. Dennehy and Dalton Thompson are a pleasure and their interactions with one another bring a livelihood to the proceedings. This being a family film, however, it paints a rather pretty picture of our past. Although racism is mentioned, no one in this little town seems the least bit prejudiced. Johnson's sister, in fact, is half black and there is relatively no reaction to that whatsoever (except by the evil character). Even though a certain character is slated for sterilization (as was common practice), a last minute injunction saves the day. Whew! Difficult topic over, never to be mentioned again. Few things can be more incendiary or heated than evolutionary debate, but most of the actual townsfolk don't seem to have an opinion one way or another. It's like they're gathering for an ice cream social.

Again, "Alleged" hints at a lot of topics without digging too deep. As an introduction, it's fine--but at 90 minutes (and most of that devoted to young lovers), important issues are given short shrift. The Special Features of the DVD include a Discussion Guide to be utilized in possible church or school settings. So that kind of gears you toward the targeted audience for the film and its intentions. It's all gently likable without being too challenging. I enjoyed the movie, but I still think there is a great film yet to be made that really digs into the Scopes trial in a relevant way. For my taste, the film rates about 3 1/2 stars for pleasantness. A good introduction, but strictly family fare--I'll round up for good intentions. KGHarris, 11/11.
16 of 21 people found the following review helpful
A Must See Film Oct. 27 2011
By Darwin Researcher - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
If you like history this film is for you. This DVD will correct some of the many incorrect beliefs about the famous 1925 Scopes trial, such as those in the play Inherit the Wind. One fact that it covers was the importance of racism as a motivating factor of W. J. Bryan to involve himself in the trial. Those who have read the trial transcript will soon realize how distorted the public view of the trial is, especially the play Inherit the Wind. This film was embellished slightly, but such is necessary to get a story out of a trial. Nonetheless, the basic story is accurate and the acting and cinematography are great!!! In contrast to the play Inherit the Wind, no one is demonized except possibly the Baltimore Sun news reporter, and anti-just about every minority, H. L. Mencken. The fact that the evidence for human evolution in 1925 was pathetic is brought out well in the film. The examples include Nebraska man (named Hesperopithecus found out to be a pig's tooth, specifically a peccary), Piltdown man (found out to be a hoax in the early 1950s), Neanderthal Man (now considered just another race of humans) and Java man (regarded simply as an Australopithecus). I would have quoted more from the trial transcript, which included the written testimony of the leading scientists, to show this, but the producer had to get this information in the film into a brief segment to keep the story moving, so had to abbreviate. A must see film.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
PERFECT TIMING March 20 2012
By Mark Turner - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD
It seems that the knowledge people have these days comes from the easiest source and that more often than not is the television. The sales of newspapers are down and it seems the art of discussion is rare these days. Fortunately the internet has changed some of this but even there a ton of misinformation can be found. So imagine what it must have been like years ago when the only source of information was the newspaper.

That's the basis of the story found in ALLEGED, a different takes than we've witnessed before concerning the Scopes monkey trial. For years the only way to learn about this trail was through the film INHERIT THE WIND. I've always loved that film, in particular the acting done by both Spencer Tracy and Frederick March. But that movie made it seem as if the trial was the result of the people's wills often depicting anyone who was religious as fanatical.

This time around we have a different story. Instead of the trial being brought about by a teacher who has a fire burning inside of him to teach students about Darwin we instead have a town that's slowly fading that needs a hook to get folks into town again. They recruit the local science teacher into saying he believes in Darwin so that they can get people riled up about the question of creationism versus evolution.

Pulled into the midst of this whole circus is Charles Anderson (Nathan West), a reporter for the local newspaper whose father was the owner years ago. He wants to move on to better things, to the big city where he can achieve fame like his idol, H.L.Menken (Colm Meaney). Menken was the leading journalist of his time and one of the most read. Getting him involved means more folks hearing about the town and then coming for the trial.

To make it an even bigger event, the townsfolk get the best speaker they can find for the prosecution, Williams Jenning Bryan (Fred Dalton Thompson). Bryan has already decried the idea of evolutionism and the trial seems like a slam dunk. But then Menken and his paper bring in noted lawyer Clarence Darrow (Brian Dennehy) for the defense. What seemed like a slam dunk is now a case that will be viewed and used across the country.

In the middle of it all is the story of Charles. He becomes caught up in the spectacle of the entire situation more interested in impressing Menken than in reporting facts. And while hanging around with Menken he is tutored in the art of twisting a phrase or creating a story where none exist. This was the state of journalism at that time and is represented much more here than in INHERIT. Charles becomes so invested in the lines and way of life Menken presents him that he nearly loses the most important thing in his life, his fiancé Rose (Ashley Johnson). It isn't until a crisis slaps Charles in the face where he must decide to either tell the truth or become a part of the bigger world where truth is not told but created.

The movie is well made but appears to settle into the made for TV format in feel and appearance. This movie would not have made much released to the box office. But it does offer a nice evening's entertainment as well as offer a new look at an old story.

It also has the ability to make you think differently when looking at the news. How much of what we are told these days is the truth and how much of it is twisted to suit the needs of those in charge of dispensing the news? Many claim that FOX is little more than this but the fact of the matter is that in these days EVERY news network has their own agenda when it comes to the news they disseminate. It is rare to find the absolute truth without digging deeper to find it.

Perhaps it is this reason that more people are turning away from the major news networks we all grew up watching and trusting. Too many fake stories, too many stories that turned out to be twisted and too many stories that were ignored to support one side or the other. I think that's a good thing. People need to look deeper than the surface no matter what the outcome. And with movies like this at least getting made, perhaps more people will take the time to do so.
8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
The antidote to "Inherit the Wind" Nov. 16 2011
By David L. Bump - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
It is a great shame that this video didn't get distributed to theaters. I heard in a radio interview that it has done well in a number of film festivals. It has some well-known actors showing how talented they are, and the quality of the filming is also equal to or better than most films that Hollywood has produced.

I call it "The antidote to Inherit the Wind" because many people have gotten the impression that ItW shows what the Scopes Trial was like, but this movie shows what actuallly happened. However, the primary focus is on the roots of the problems of modern journalism -- sensationalism (shocking stories about what has been "alleged"), focusing on negatives, juicing up the plain facts ("paint a picture"), and seeking to make the public share the "progressive" view of events.

The protagonist of the story is a young reporter, torn between the high, "old-fashioned" standards of his father, and the success of H. L. Mencken, who comes to be a sort of mentor in the new ways of making news. Fans of Star Trek may marvel at how well Colm Meany plays this cynical man, so different from his character in ST:TNG. Meany doesn't soft-pedal Mencken's cynicism and cold-hearted pragmatism, yet he also doesn't go overboard and turn the character into a cardboard evil-doer. He displays Mencken's flashing sense of humor and enjoyment of life. People who admire Mencken shouldn't feel offended, and may well not see anything wrong with his ideas and behavior even when presented as belonging to the closest thing to a "bad guy" in this film. Which is best, honesty and integrity or fame and fortune? And can you have both?

This movie is far from the sort of propaganda or polemical affair that would portray real people as simple villains and immaculate heroes. If anything, Clarence Darrow (expertly portrayed by Brian Dennehy) is treated more positively than he deserves. Atheists and evolutionists needn't fear any offence of that sort. This is not the mirror image of Inherit the Wind in that way.

However, the movie does bring out the sorry lack of evidence, at the time, for the theory that humans evolved from lower animals. Again, the movie is perhaps overly gentle in this regard, for the sake of historical accuracy I assume, showing (for example) a presentation of the doctrine that embryonic development of humans recapitulates our evolutionary history, complete with gill slits. It is not pointed out (few if any knew it at the time) that this was a gross misrepresentation, based largely on fraudulent drawings made by Ernst Haeckel to support his own ideas about evolution. Likewise, the fact that "Nebraska Man" was known only from a tooth is brought out, but the fact that it was later determined to be the tooth of a pig is only brought up in the notes after the movie proper is over. It is interesting that the weaknesses of the evidence that the panel of scientists wanted to present (and did submit in writing) are brought out by Darrow (at least in this movie), as he evaluates how they would play out in the court. Likewise, the movie leaves to the unbelievers Mencken and Darrow to destroy the idea that evolution and Biblical creation are in any way compatible, either way you look at it.

Perhaps the one aspect that some may find offensive is the depiction of the connections from Darwinian evolution to eugenics to the application that included the sterilization of 60,000 people in the States, which was sanctioned by the Supreme Court. However, this too is the way it was historically. While it may be argued that Darwin's theory shouldn't be connected to socio-political attempts to purify the human gene pool, it is a fact that Darwin himself raised questions about the wisdom of allowing inferior sorts to breed, pointing out that it would be considered a bad practice in breeding animals. It's also a historical fact that the biology book that Scopes taught from (briefly, as a substitute) taught many things we would all find offensive now, and tied them to evolution and what it claimed were biological facts. It is clear that these ideas were held by very many scientists and leaders of academia.

Vying for attention with all this is a love story, nearly qualifying this as a romance movie. To my relief, it does not make the film into a "chic flic", although it may add some attraction for women. Fortunately, it also does not distract from the rest of the story, nor does it seem to be an afterthought that interrupts the main storyline. I found all of the different aspects of the story seamlessly blended together.

All of this adds up to a movie that is educational, but in a way that you wouldn't notice if you weren't looking. I was looking, and learned some things even though I've studied the subject a bit more than most people probably have. Some things I wonder about and would like to do some research on, and that's a good thing. You can enjoy it just for the performance of Colm Meany (and/or the other actors; Fred Thompson does a good job bringing William Jennings Bryan to life, again as a man with both good qualities and human frailty). It's enjoyable as a tale of Boy engages Girl, Boy picks up bad habits, Girl breaks off engagement... (Sorry if this is a spoiler, but it has a happy ending!). It's fascinating as a picture of a bygone era, a period when foundations held for centuries were being exchanged for what was considered the modern, progressive way of looking at the world. Without being preachy, it invites us to question things we are told we must accept as true and good.

(BTW, if you would like to experience some of the scenery first-hand, come to Genesee County, Michigan, where much of the filming was done. Look up Crossroads Village and Huckleberry Railroad. It's close to Flint.)
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
A thought provoking film for the entire family Feb. 9 2012
By Arthur Sido - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
We bought and finally got around to watching a movie last night that we have more than simply an entertainment interest in. The movie is Alleged and is a look at what is known as the Scopes Monkey Trial. This is the trial, back in 1925, in Tennessee that focused on the teaching of evolutionary theory in public schools. As Alleged shows, there is a lot more to the story than that! There are worldviews and motivations underlying this event that are rarely addressed, or at least addressed honestly and in a balanced way. Even the trial itself, famously portrayed in the movie Inherit The Wind, went quite differently in real life.

Unlike a lot of privately produced films in the family friendly genre, Alleged has some heavy hitters in the cast. Most notable on this list are Fred Thompson, Colm Meaney (who has been in quite a few films but is best known to me as Chief O'Brien from Star Trek:TNG and Deep Space Nine!) and Brian Dennehy, all major film stars and solid actors. Because of this, the acting and production quality of this film is substantially higher than other films like Facing the Giants that target the same audience. The film is also less overtly religious although clearly the film is not only very family friendly, it is also sympathetic to people of faith. As part of the special features, the DVD includes a series of discussion questions making this a great film to watch and discuss with a church gathering, especially in a small group study or a youth setting since they are often on the front lines of the debate over evolution and creation.

What was most interesting about this movie is that it looked at a crucial moment in American culture in a way that pushes through the cultural nostalgia of a principled defender of education and knowledge pitted against the hordes of uneducated religious fundamentalists. The reality is far more complex. For example, William Jennings Bryant was hardly a fire breathing fundamentalist, he didn't even hold to a six 24 hour day creationism. The newspaper reporters of the day were not nearly as noble as made out to be. Most importantly, the driving forces behind this event on the "evolution side" held to some terribly abhorrent views of human beings, views that are repugnant but also a natural result of an evolutionary worldview.

Certainly Alleged is approaching this highly charged topic and event from a particular worldview but I didn't find that it beat you over the head with it. This wasn't a feature length film clamoring about six day creationism. What it seems to be setting out to do, and I think it accomplished, was to look more at the worldview of those on the defense team, defending Mr. Scopes from charges that may not have even been true, and doing so more to push a point rather than out of a sense of justice and fairness. Regardless this event from nearly 100 years ago is still a hot issue today in our culture, educational systems and the church. Alleged is a great way to look at a crucial topic while also being an entertaining film to watch with the entire family.

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