Divided by Hate

Frankenheimer’s magnificent but grossly undervalued Dead Bang was too complicated for the critics, of course, which is no reason why the vast moviegoing public shouldn’t have received it gladly, but these things take time, as Orson Welles used to say. Divided by Hate collapses the complex structure of Dead Bang into a directly simple exposition, and TV Guide still didn’t get it.

Oh, well, you’re a working man in the farm belt and your wife gets took up with a preacher man whose Jesus wears a swastika for a halo. She and the kids move into his backyard bric-ŕ-brac compound, where the men practice marksmanship and throat-slitting, and every day it’s “lunchtime, Luna.” She grows roses along the chain-link fence, which gives Skerritt a fine shot (through the fence and over the roses to her), and there she sees a man beaten up for some reason and begins to doubt her faith.

It’s a strange faith, a more ecumenical form of Nazism which doesn’t scruple at citing Hebrew scripture on the vengeance of God (Isaiah). As curious as it sounds, this bunch is referred to in reviews euphemistically as “a right-wing anti-government religious cult.”

The local constabulary call this a domestic squabble, the FBI is uninterested, all you can do is pass around missing-children flyers, make the local evening news, and finally hire a private detective.

Skerritt’s technique is generally remarkable for its absence of establishing shots, you’re simply here or there among the various locations speaking for themselves, usually in medium close-up. His attentiveness to Rockwell’s America is finely measured as the proper distance between New England and his Utah locations.