April 10, 1984

'Killing Floor': Not pretty, but powerful labor drama
By Marilyn Preston

"The Killing Floor" goes on to document and explore the next couple of years in the life of Frank Custer, a man who was involved in the earliest attempts to organize workers in the Chicago stockyards. It's not a pretty story, but it's an important and provocative one, and it kicks off a proposed (and still controversial) six-part series of dramatic films called "Made in U.S.A." - "a series which explores the experiences of ordinary, working Americans in the great epoch of America's industrialization (1835-1945)," according to Elsa Rassbach, executive producer of the project and the writer of "The Killing Floor" story. The script, by Leslie, Lee is strong and moving and so are the performances especially Damien Leake's.

THE JOB THAT Custer gets, on the killing floor, sweeping up the blood and guts of butchered cows, is not a great one. His friend Thomas can't take the work or the abuse from the Polish workers, from the German workers, from the international mix of laborers that manned the stockyards back in 1917-19. But Custer stays. Contrary to the advice of another respected black (Moses Gunn), he even decides to join the union, and that leads to a series of conflicts and crises that wind up pitting Custer against many other black mEn who don't want to be in the union. read more>>
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