Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, October 23, 2014


Deborah Kerr and Richard Burton
THE NIGHT OF THE IGUANA (1964). Director: John Huston. Based on the play by Tennessee Williams.

"Don't make me take steps, Dr. Shannon ..." -- Judith Fellowes.

The former minister T. Lawrence Shannon (Richard Burton), who was locked out of his church, is now guiding ladies on a tour bus through Mexico. Young Charlotte Goodall (Sue Lyon) can't keep her hands off Shannon, inspiring the ire of her formidable guardian Judith Fellowes (Grayson Hall). Shannon takes the gals to a small hotel run by an old friend, Maxine Faulk (Ava Gardner), whose husband died a short while ago. While some of the tourist ladies put up a fuss, Maxine reluctantly admits the impoverished artist Hannah Jelkes (Deborah Kerr) and her aged poet father, Nonno (Cyril Delevanti) to her hostel. As these characters interact and Shannon faces dismissal from the tour business, will the man finally find himself  "at the end of his rope," like one of the iguanas tied to the stairs? Like many Williams' adaptations The Night of the Iguana is a mix of the poetic and the pretentious, but it does have some very tender moments. Burton, Lyon and Delevanti walk off with the acting honors. Grayson Hall [House of Dark Shadows] is a bit overwrought, almost ridiculous at times, as Judith, but the whole idea of the fire-breathing repressed lesbian is terribly dated. Deborah Kerr [Edward, My Son] is good, but she doesn't quite get across the weary defeatedness of someone who is a caregiver to a man in his nineties [walking him around Mexico in the heat with little money could almost be considered elder abuse], and is apparently homeless besides -- where is the sheer desperation she would be feeling? Gardner [Seven Days in May] is not bad at all and suitably earthy; Bette Davis played the role on the stage. The poem that Nonno completes, written by Williams, of course, is beautiful. Despite its flaws, the movie casts a certain exotic and haunting spell.

Verdict: Imperfect but entertaining and well-acted, with some interesting characters. ***.

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