• The heroes of Wellman’s Wild Boys of the Road, primed for anything

William A. Wellman was something like the Takashi Miike of the 1930s, a remarkably prolific genre filmmaker (he directed 20 films in the first four years of that decade) who made no bones about being inconsistent but was never predictable or boring. His best work of the period—like Night Nurse, Other Men’s Women, or Wild Boys of the Road, which screens Wednesday night at 7:30 PM at the Portage Theater—has a unique, barroom-style confidence, executing sudden turns from comedy to tragedy like handstands attempted on a dare.

Though Wellman probably didn’t intend his tonal shifts as such, they succeed in conveying the utter instability of American life during the Depression. So it’s fitting that this week’s revival of Wild Boys of the Road should be copresented by the progressive arts organization Portoluz as part of their Project WPA 2.0, an ongoing series of film screenings, concerts, lectures, and exhibitions that address the culture of the Great Depression or the current economic downturn.