Legend Films // 1972 // 120 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Clark Douglas // June 23rd, 2008
There is only one safe place...in each other's arms.
Hurricane is based on a 1937 film of the same name which was directed by John Ford. I haven't seen that film, but I can pretty much promise you that it is better than this one.
The lovely Charlotte (Mia Farrow, Hannah and Her Sisters) thought she was only coming to the island of Bora Bora for a visit. Her father (Jason Robards, The Ballad of Cable Hogue) is the governor there, and she hasn't seen him in quite some time. Charlotte falls in love with a young Samoan chief (Dayton Ka'ne), which unfortunately makes her father very angry. Just as tensions are beginning to boil, disaster strikes: a giant hurricane is coming, bringing inevitable destruction and death with it. When the winds die down, how many lives will be shaken up?
Hurricane begins on an extraordinarily promising note. The film opens with a gorgeous Sven Nykvist shot of the South Seas at dusk. Sunlight glimmers through the clouds, and a rapturous Nino Rota score accompanies the opening credits. The cast looks terrific: Jason Robards, Mia Farrow, Max von Sydow (The Seventh Seal), Timothy Bottoms (That's My Bush!), Trevor Howard (Mutiny on the Bounty), and some new guy named Dayton Ka'ne. Very exciting. Then the film begins to introduce the characters, and once the key cast members have been introduced, we realize that very little of interest has happened. Then we see what is starting to occur, and we cringe: a super-dopey romance between a sweet-yet-dull American woman and an island chief who seems to have walked out of the pages of a cheap paperback. This is a film in which two lovers hold seashells up to each other's ears and ask each other questions like, "What is the ocean saying to you?" This is followed by floating in the water together while holding hands, tickling sessions, beach lovemaking, canoe rides, skinny-dipping, and other similar activities. There is a very excessive amount of this sort of thing, only redeemed by Rota's lyrical score.
Hurricane is little more than an excuse to put together an expensive demonstration of very bad weather, but you're not going to get people into seats with that alone. So, the film adds a lifeless romance to the proceedings, attempting to give us a reason to feel emotionally impacted by the hurricane. Sadly, we are not. I'm not a huge fan of James Cameron's Titanic, but that was a considerably more successful blend of doomed romance and special effects-driven disaster than this film. In fact, nearly any disaster film of the 1970s was better than this one. Farrow is a very talented actress, but she doesn't really seem to know what to do with her character. Meanwhile, Ka'ne gives the sort of performance that moviegoers always dread might occur whenever that "and introducing" credit appears before their name.There is one particularly gratuitous scene of a native girl's "de-flowerization." This is a ritual in which a woman is stripped naked, and one of the village elders pokes around to see if the woman is still a virgin. How the hell does this film manage to get away with a PG rating when it included a scene like this? Oh yeah, I forgot. The girl's skin is brown, which for some reason was perfectly fine in many movies set on tropical islands from the 1970s and 1980s. Anyway, this scene alone does not serve the film in any way whatsoever other than to provide lurid sensationalism (this ceremonial scene is followed by an equally gratuitous scene of the girl's suicide).Three-quarters of the way through the film, the storm finally arrives. It couldn't come a moment sooner. Sadly, this proves to be a disappointment, as well. It's noisy and incoherent, and everything climaxes in a particularly predictable and uninteresting manner. I can only imagine how disappointed audiences who saw the film in the theatre must have been. They had to sit through ninety minutes of crummy drama to get to the big storm, and then all the storm provides is a visual and audible mess. Admittedly, Sven Nykvist does provide a few nice images here and there, but this is far from the great work Nykvist did for Ingmar Bergman. Speaking of visuals, the film looks rather weak, with a lot of grain during most scenes and plenty of scratches. Audio is so-so, with both Rota's score and sound effects suffering some notable damage. DVD extras are limited to a theatrical trailer, which plays up the film's least savory elements.
The positive elements here are few and far between. I've all ready mentioned Rota's score, but it is indeed an enjoyable one. The supporting cast has a few notable moments, but it's a shame to see the likes of Jason Robards and Max von Sydow wasted in favor of more scenes of our two uninteresting lovers.
This film is just as awful as it's reputation would suggest. Don't let the very impressive cast tempt you to watch it.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Legend Films
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 120 Minutes
Release Year: 1972
MPAA Rating: Rated PG