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September 7, 2010

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DVD of the Week – A Miner’s Life in Film

by HELEN GEIB

Come and listen you fellows, so young and so fine,
And seek not your fortune in the dark, dreary mines.
It will form as a habit and seep in your soul,
‘Til the stream of your blood is as black as the coal.

CHORUS:
It’s dark as a dungeon and damp as the dew,
Where danger is double and pleasures are few,
Where the rain never falls and the sun never shines
It’s dark as a dungeon way down in the mine.

It’s a-many a man I have seen in my day,
Who lived just to labor his whole life away.
Like a fiend with his dope and a drunkard his wine,
A man will have lust for the lure of the mines.

I hope when I’m gone and the ages shall roll,
My body will blacken and turn into coal.
Then I’ll look from the door of my heavenly home,
And pity the miner a-diggin’ my bones.

Lyrics by Merle Travis, 1946

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In observance of Labor Day, Commentary Track recommends five films of the miner’s life:

The Proud Valley (1940) (UK) dir Pen Tennyson

The Molly Maguires (1970) (US) dir Martin Ritt

Matewan (1987) (US) dir John Sayles

Harlan County U.S.A. (1976) (US) dir Barbara Kopple

Blind Shaft (2003) (China) dir Yang Li

New releases this week: Killers, MacGruber, Solitary Man

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. miriam
    Sep 9 2010

    That’s a really great song. There’s another verse that seems especially appropriate after the string of recent mining accidents.

    ADDITIONAL STANZA RARELY PERFORMED BY MERLE TRAVIS:

    The midnight, the morning, or the middle of day,
    Is the same to the miner who labors away.
    Where the demons of death often come by surprise,
    One fall of the slate and you’re buried alive.

    Your list is a good one, within the limits of DVD availability. I got curious about what else there might be about mining and found a remarkable list at a blog about West Virginia film.
    http://blogs.wvgazette.com/wvfilm/2008/10/21/films-about-coal-mining-all-i-could-find/

  2. Helen
    Sep 10 2010

    Thanks for the link- that’s an interesting site.

    I’d like to see Black Fury. It had a VHS release and I’m pretty sure TCM has shown it so at least it’s not completely locked away (from those with the right cable package), but it’s- oddly and unfortunately- not yet been released on DVD.

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