April 10, 1984

'The Killing Floor' Brings Human Touch To History
By John V. Hurst

Maybe what makes "The Killing Floor" so moving and absorbing is the way it succeeds in giving human scale and human impact to a moment in America's industrial history.

So don't be put off by word that "The Killing Floor” (9 tonight on KVIE, Channel 6) is a two-hour film about a failed attempt to found an interracial union in the Chicago stockyards of 1917-1919.

More accurately, this is the story of some of the people--people we are led to care about--whose lives involved them in that attempt. The title credits confirm they are, or were, the very people who actually lived it. The stuff of history--the overlying social, political, economic issues involved--emerge much as they must have emerged in the lives of those who were there; piecemeal, in human terms and dimensions.

"The war come," says black sharecropper Frank Custer over the opening credits, "and all of a sudden there was jobs up North.... Folks was making good money in Chicago."

"Good Money" was 21 cents an hour, enough to lure young Custer (played by Damien Leake) to part from his wife Mattie (Alfre Woodard) and their three children for the year it took him to earn their fare. read more>>
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