Monday, July 8, 2013

Movie review: "The Next Voice You Hear..."

I came across a mention of a movie a couple of weeks ago. It is called "The Next Voice You Hear...". Always looking for wholesome movies or tv to watch (an increasingly difficult task) I googled the movie and found this from Wikipedia:

"The Next Voice You Hear... (1950) is a drama film in which a voice claiming to be that of God preempts all radio programs for days all over the world. It stars James Whitmore and Nancy Davis as Joe and Mary Smith, a typical American couple. It was based on a short story of the same name by George Sumner Albee. The voice is never heard by the (film) audience."

Nancy Davis later became the better known Mrs Nancy Reagan.

The movie was interesting. The portrayal of a family during the time of the 1950s. Mrs Smith is pregnant, and they also have a son who looks to be about ten years old. Mr Smith works in an airplane factory, and Mrs Smith is a very pregnant stay at home mom. Their son has a paper route. They do not own a tv, because after all it is 1950, but they have a radio, in front of which Mr Smith sits each evening after family supper to have a beer and listen to his program. Mrs Smith helps her son Johnny with his homework. Occasionally Mr Smith goes bowling. Mary Smith has an aunt who sometimes visits, whom Joe Smith doesn't care for and mocks behind her back.

Joe Smith is a loving husband and father, sometimes impatient and angry with his car or his boss. Finances are a concern, the parents are sad they cannot afford a bike for the  son, or a new starter for the car and they need a new fridge. The father of the family feels this financial pressure acutely. In addition, he doesn't like his boss, believing him to be cruel and uncaring, and thinks he can do a better job himself. Joe's anger is displayed early on, where Joe is running late for work and hurtles his car down the driveway and into the street. A policeman stops Joe and Joe is issued a ticket for reckless driving. Joe receives the ticket, rolls up his window and hurtled off again, screaming rubber. The policeman catches up to Joe and issues him another ticket. Joe's latent anger boils and he continues to mutter all day long at work, grousing to the pals over lunch.

He comes home that night and has a relaxing family dinner and laughs with his son, and settles into his chair with the beer. In other words, a typical American family and really human people, living lives- never giving heed to the fact that there is a God who watches and is the standard by which human behavior is judged.

Until one night, at 8:30 PM, instead of the familiar radio show coming on, there is a voice who says He is God. The message is, "This is God. I'll be with you for the next few days." We do not hear the voice, the scene immediately prior to the voice having set us in the kitchen with Mary and Johnny. We only see Joe's shaken face as he wanders into the kitchen to tell his wife about it. They discuss whether it really was God, or another of Mr Welles's hoaxes (referring to the "War of the Worlds where Orson Welles pretended to interrupt a radio program to announce earth was being invaded.) They decide it was a hoax and try to shake off the feeling of confusion, dread, and fear.

The next day is typical, in that life went on but this time the lunch conversation is about the voice. It is revealed that the voice was heard on every radio station at the same time. The FCC is looking into it, as investigating whether there was a hacker.

The second night, the family is going about the business pretending all is normal but they are on tenterhooks as to whether this mystery will be solved or whether the mysterious voice will come on again.

'God' said He would send a rainstorm, and He did
And so it goes, for 6 nights, each time with a short message from God. Some people react with fear, and others with scorn, but Joe is struck by the intrusion of the supernatural into his life, and begins to examine himself.

One movie reviewer wrote of this B-movie, "Decidedly understated, and more concerned with inner growth than outer conflict, the story unfolds gradually and gracefully..."

Even though the movie is solidly set in a time over 60 years ago, it seems timeless. After all, who can't relate to living live as you do, and suddenly being confronted with the fact that there is a holy God watching you, which forces an inner conflict and a good tussle with the conscience.

The one part I especially liked was Joe's descent into confusion before emerging out the other side, and done with a charming 1950s flair. Joe decided to drink with a buddy after bowling one night, and got stinking drunk, and flirted with a less than wholesome lady at the bar, too. When he arrived home, stumbling and raving, his son was shocked, and later ran away. Joe was humiliated to have let his son down and ashamed to face his wife after the flirting. That was the big problem that precipitated the fastest character development. Today if the movie had been made they'd just as likely have had the dad become a serial killer and arrive home with a dripping knife and a pocket full of eyeballs. I liked the drunk scene because this reminds us that the "smaller sins" of yesteryear are still sins.

The messages from God are decidedly sanitized of doctrine. 'God' urged all to love one another, offer mercy to one another, and be forgiving, calling these 'small miracles.' Jesus is not mentioned, nor is sin, judgment or worship. However the movie is well done enough so these thoughts are evident in the reactions of the characters. There is a not-so-subtle reference to the nativity in choosing to name the mother's character "Mary", the father's character "Joe" and then there was her delivery of a baby boy.

In the end Joe decided to respect his boss, love his aunt, work on his patience and anger, and attend church. Not a bad moral.

Though there were no big pyrotechnics, being more of a thoughtful, character driven movie, I believe it would be enjoyable for people of any age. It is black and white so the kids may need a little coaxing, lol. I liked watching the locales, sets, clothing, and cars. The film was shot on location at Culver City, California, USA and at Douglas Aircraft, in addition to MGM Studios. It was enjoyable watching a slice of Americana from times gone by, and the fact that the movie was profanity-free, lewdness-free, wholesome with an overlay of 'what if the next voice you hear...is God?' made a nice evening. I hope you like this quiet, charming movie too.

Netflix doesn't have it, but I watched it on Youtube.
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Movie trivia from IMDB:

This is apparently one of only three films in which the MGM lion is not shown roaring at the start of the opening credits, probably because of the religious theme of the film. The only other known incidence of a non-roaring lion is Ben-Hur, which also has a religious theme, and Westward the Women.

The voice of God is never actually heard in the movie. The screenplay is written in such a way that the consequences of each of God's broadcasts are seen, but the broadcasts themselves are omitted.

9 comments:

  1. Sounds like an interesting movie, and I've never even heard of it! Thanks for the review - I might just have to look it up.

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    1. I liked it. Of course at the big moment when 'God' made His speech, I was hoping He would call everyone to repentance through His resurrected Son, but lol, it didn't happen. I think what did happen was at least not heinously undoctrinal. At the very least it is a good family movie if not looking for theology. :)

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  2. I remember watching this movie when I was around 10 years old. It made a profound impression on me. I'll have to watch it again, now with older wiser eyes.

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    1. I hope it stands up to your initial impression :)

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  3. Thanks for the review! Just the other night my husband and I went out to have dinner and a movie without first checking out our movie options. After dinner we searched on our phones and read reviews and I sulked around that not one was appropriate or desirable. If we are paying a sitter I want to be sure it's something decent! So frustrating. Please blog about your favorite wholesome movies! It will be appreciated! :) Melissa S.

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    1. Hi Melissa!

      Here are a few I've written about.

      End of the Spear
      http://the-end-time.blogspot.com/2013/06/movie-end-of-spear-and-being-lost-in.html

      What If...?
      http://the-end-time.blogspot.com/2013/02/movie-review-what-if.html

      WWJDII: The Woodcarver
      http://the-end-time.blogspot.com/2013/01/christian-movie-review-wwjd-ii.html

      Charles Spurgeon Movie
      http://the-end-time.blogspot.com/2013/01/charles-spurgeon-movie.html

      Damascus the Movie
      http://the-end-time.blogspot.com/2010/01/damascus-movie-now-on-youtube.html

      The Ballad of Lucy Whipple

      That Guy... Who Was in That Thing (warning language. Funny though)

      Microcosmos

      The First Grader (some violence, this is a documentary that realistically depicts torture but in only two sceneshree

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    2. Thank you! I look forward to checking these out! M

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    3. You're welcome! I forgot to mention that End of the Spear also has violence... as happens in missionary stories, the Amazonians did use the spear but it is not egregious and the blood is hidden for the most part

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  4. I also saw this film as a young boy, and it affected me profoundly. Imagine my delight when the MGM archives offered a dvd! I watch it often, and the wonder and assurance I felt in 1975, is still there.

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