Molly Maguires, The (1970)

The Molly Maguires (1970), produced and directed by Martin Ritt.

The Pennsylvania coal fields in 1876. Hard times, hard work, hard men. A secret group of Irish miners fight back against the bosses by blowing up the works, doing assaults and even murder. A police spy infiltrates the organization, a dangerous endeavor, but he'll do anything do be one of "the few who look down, rather than the many who look up."

It's loosely based on true incidents, although historians still argue how active the Molly Maguires were in America, and to what extent they were a proto-labor movement vs a criminal gang.

It's a fine drama, if grim and humorless throughout. Richard Harris is the police agent and Sean Connery head of the secret society. We like him better, but also admire Harris's courage and understand his striving in a cruel world: "You're either pushing up or pushing down." They play off each other very well.

Also of note are Samantha Eggar as a possible love interest (can she love a betrayer?) and the great Frank Finlay as police chief. It's Celt vs Celt, Irish vs Welsh.

Henry Mancini score: Celtic airs, both soulful and tempestuous. (Chesterton: "All their wars are merry, and all their songs are sad"). Cinematography by James Wong Howe.

A box office disaster. This was hard on Connery, who was struggling to escape the James Bond roles. He did some good work during this period, such as in The Hill (1965) and The Offence (1972), both directed by Sidney Lumet. All these films were well-liked by reviewers but drew only small audiences.