High drama and suspense are embodied strongly in this production. Writers took the [true-life] Kathy Fiscus episode, in which a California child was trapped in an old well, and used this as a story hook for a tense and gripping screenplay. For purposes of drama, they have made this key character a Negro child, and added the Negro problem in build-up of plot. It's unusually well handled
The Well is a modest but generally effective plea for racial tolerance. Based loosely on a real incident, the film tells of the disappearance of a little African-American girl in a small, segregated community. Caucasian Claude Packard (Harry Morgan, the nephew of the town's richest man (Barry Kelley), is the last person seen with the little girl. Sensing a coverup when Morgan is not immediately charged, the black community is on the verge of a riot. But when it's discovered that the little girl has fallen down a well, all racial differences are forgotten as black and white neighbors work shoulder to shoulder to rescue the child. The Well tries very hard to be equitable by 1951 standards, and is heartfelt enough to overcome its occasional lapses into stereotype and condescension.
Image's DVD of The Well comes from a second-rate Wade Williams print source. The movie seems to be intact but has quite a few distracting scratches, especially in the first half. Ernest Laszlo's night scenes are good but his on-the-street buildup to the riot is even better. We feel like we're in a real small town where a bored teenage girl might claim she was threatened by a black man to get her boyfriend to pay attention to her. A better copy will hopefully someday emerge.