"You've been playing the fool, Matangi, making cow eyes with the governor's daughter. But don't despair, there's hope for you. If foolishness was a mortal sin, Hell would have been full up years ago from overcrowding."
A one-time Roman Polanski project until his, er, legal problems intervened, 1979's Hurricane may boast some arthouse talents on the credits but it's got a Mills and Boon mentality. A big budget reworking of John Ford's classic but rarely revived 30s forbidden love story cum disaster movie, it's the kind of film where the budget rarely seems to translate on screen, with $22m buying a rather second rate star cast - Mia Farrow, Jason Robards, Max Von Sydow, Timothy Bottoms and Trevor Howard, still playing the priest from Ryan's Daughter in all but name - and one of the least exciting natural disasters ever filmed. This time round rather than Jon Hall's unjustly imprisoned native sailor fighting the elements to return to wife Dorothy Lamour, it's Mia Farrow, daughter of Jason Robard's stern governor, failing to take Von Sydow's advice "In the tropics, take passion lightly and always with a grain of salt" and defying convention to fall for local chief Dayton Ka'ne. At times it's hard to tell whether Robards objects because he rather fancies his daughter himself or because their love scenes are so corny ("Marry me at once or leave my island!" "Do you hear that, gods? The high chief has spoken!"), but pretty soon he and racist Marine James Keach are sending him to certain death in prison and nature, clearly abhorring the vacuum the film exists in, gets bored and throws in a hurricane in the last half hour to try to liven things up. Nature loses.
Jan Troell's unenthusiastic direction takes a tortoise and the hare approach to storytelling and a clinical, almost ant farm approach to the love story. You can almost imagine a scientist with a clipboard making notes. So disastrously short of passion it's like watching two tortoises mate, his detached style is almost heroically at odds with Lorenzo Semple's often inane, wilfully tongue-in-cheek direlogue like "It's astounding that I would ever accept love as an excuse for criminal conduct!" or "You see one palm tree, you've seen `em all." Amazingly, even a scene where a ship crashes into a church doesn't kick much life in to the picture.
It's easy to see what might have appealed to Polanski - a defloration ceremony that goes violently wrong ("Don't go there, Charlotte, you wouldn't like it") and a scene where Farrow hints to her father that she'll sleep with him if he frees her lover - but the result is the kind of movie where a TV network could cut 29 minutes and nobody would complain. There are a few unintentional laughs and it's fun to catch composer Nino Rota taking his revenge on producer Dino De Laurentiis for costing him his Godfather Oscar by creeping its theme into his Hawaiian theme bar score from time to time, but it's all too easy to see why this massive money loser was so quickly forgotten - it's just dull. Even Paramount wanted nothing to do with the DVD release, sublicensing it to Legend Films, who offer a reasonable 2.35:1 transfer with only the original trailer as an extra. It's all too revealing about the film that even that can't summon up much enthusiasm until it stops showing scenes from the film and resorts to a montage of still photos to up the tempo!