Sound: C+ Extras: C Film: B-
With Julie Andrews red-hot off of The Sound Of Music
(1965), old friend Walter Mirisch convinced her to star in an epic big screen
adaptation of part of James A. Mitchener’s novel Hawaii (1966), pairing
her with Max Von Sydow and Richard Harris in a tale about how the famous
islands of the title became part of the United States eventually. They play missionaries trying to convert the
natives to Christianity. Needless to
say what really happens was not simple or easy.
The film runs 161 minutes and that is probably stretching
the screenplay a bit, but that is par for the course with Dalton Trumbo, who
co-wrote the adaptation with Daniel Taradash.
Trumbo, politics aside, tends too often to take each item and stretch
them out much further than they should be stretched. No wonder Stanley Kubrick was not happy with Spartacus,
thinking all story points have endless elasticity, but the dialogue is
intelligent. All the writers involved
can claim credit for, but it takes about an hour after Sydow has chastised the
natives before he is taken to task for overdoing it, though the final hour of
the film is the best. Andrews saw this
and Alfred Hitchcock’s Torn Curtain arrive the same year, but she did
not click in either film, though she fared better in the thriller. The idea was that this film might appeal to The
Sound Of Music audience with its family, other-world and conservative
themes, but it was only a modest success.
It seemed she could carry another epic hit, and she did
here, as she did in the outright box office and critical disappointment of the
1968 Robert Wise film Star! I
give her credit for trying to stretch in the roles following The Sound Of
Music and am impressed by how good she is here. The film gets melodramatic, but it is not totally such a film,
and its best moments are when it gets away from that and into the heart of the
story. Gene Hackman, Carroll O’Connor,
Michael Constantine, John Harding, Heather Menzies (the TV version of Logan’s
Run), and even Bette Midler (a brief scene as a boat passenger) also star.
The anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image is from an aged
print and is not the most color rich we have seen, needing some work. Video Black and Gray Scale hold up better
than expected under the circumstances, but cinematographer Russell Harlan,
A.S.C., delivers memorable images that sometimes save the film from
itself. The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono is
not bad, but a big disappointment considering a 6-track magnetic stereo version
of the sound exists from the 70mm blow-ups of the film. Instead, the five channels behind the screen
of traveling dialogue, sound effects and Elmer Bernstein score are bottled up
by this sad tradedown. Hopefully by the
time a digital High Definition version arrives, those sound elements will have
been recovered. The oddest thing is
that the 12” LaserDisc version was in stereo, so what gives?
It should be said that this is one of Bernstein’s best
scores for a film few have seen and has a deserved following. It saves the film in ways that are sometimes
profound. He was very ambitious in what
he composed and it is a serious standout.
Extras include a theatrical trailer and original featurette (9:38) that
is not in the best of shape. At least
it is more than just a trailer for a change.
Not enough of these archival items are making DVD, but this one is
here. New interviews would have been
nice. Now, we’ll see if MGM releases
its sequel, The Hawaiians on DVD.
- Nicholas Sheffo