The publicity around the shooting of The Night of the Iguana, with its giant cast in tiny Puerto Vallarta and tinier Mismaloya, Mexico, was itself legendary. Despite the margaritas, Richard Burton turned in a magnificent performance as Tennessee Williams’s Reverend T. Lawrence Shannon, minister to his own passions, living a “comparatively comfortable, even voluptuous crucifixion” as a tour guide to repressed Baptist ladies from Texas. Ava Gardner’s cackling longing out-Lizes the off-screen Liz. But it is in Deborah Kerr’s prim godliness that Shannon recognizes his opposite self, the one lost to maleness. The Reverend knows when he’s been frocked. Gabriel Figueroa uses deep focus to find icons in Mexicans and caricatures in Americans; the one, a glimpse into “a lost world of innocence,” the other, the fantastic within the real, the thing that has Shannon spooked. —Judy Bloch, BAM/PFA
Adventure in many forms is the theme of many of John Huston’s films. His characters are constantly searching for “the stuff that dreams are made of” (the famous closing-line of his debut film The Maltese Falcon). Huston glorified this chase despite its frequent disillusionment and false promise, since it represented a flight from the complacent virtues of ordinary life. Like Ernest Hemingway and Joseph Conrad, Huston regarded civilization as a false surface which thinly veiled a hostile nature. Only those who lived at the edge, on the margins of society were regarded by Huston as fellow travellers. In films as diverse as The Treasure of Sierra Madre, The Asphalt Jungle and Under the Volcano, Huston celebrated men who circled the abyss; characters who are driven to plunge head first into the void.
The son of the great theatre and film actor Walter Huston (who would win an Oscar under his son’s direction for his role in The Treasure of Sierra Madre) and crime journalist Rhea Gore… read more
Never quite gelled, or launched, or cohered for me. One of the lesser Williams adaptations, I think. It's strangely tone deaf, and not salvageable by a few strong performances.
Great film. Burton's panicky character can take a while to get used to, but from then on it's a perfect film. The performances and the screenplay are stupendous. Those are probably the showiest and best elements. Ava, Ava, Ava. Such a perfect person, actor, character. Figueroa's photography was perfect, like always. Tennessee William's source play must be great... I'll get to reading it soon.