Search the Cinema Head Cheese Archives!

May 13, 2016

Movie Review: Hawaii (1966)

Directed by George Roy Hill

Movie Review by Greg Goodsell

After taking lovely Jerusha Bromley (the always radiant Julie Andrews, fresh from her success in Walt Disney's Mary Poppins that very year) in wedlock, stern, despicable missionary Abner Hale (Max von Sydow) sails the sea from 18th Century New England with other like-minded zealots to convert the heathens in Hawaii. After a perilous journey across the sea, they reach the lovely coastal outpost of Lahaina and are introduced to bounteous Queen Malama (Jocelyn LaGarde, in a singular performance that won an Academy Award nomination). There is the expected cultural clashes – all those beautiful native lovelies walking around topless, shocking for 1966, and the fact that the queen is married to her brother in order to protect the royal lineage! Hale does his collective worst to cram Northern European morals down the native's throats to limited to success, and scenes of broad violence and tragedy ensue. Hale does learn his lesson, alas, a little bit too late.

Based upon the third chapter of novelist James Michener's sprawling, 1,000-page 1959 novel of the same name, Hawaii is an old-fashioned movie epic with some startling modern ideas. In addition to the casual nudity – almost unheard of outside of stag films of this period, the film's screenplay, co-authored by the legendary Dalton Trumbo, is surprisingly anti-Christian and anti-Western. Sydow's Abner Hale, clad in black, is almost Vaudevillian in his villainy. Almost never portrayed in a sympathetic light, Hale and his friends only bring division to the peaceful islanders. There are some unsavory aspects about the-then Hawaiian culture, such as incestuous marriages that lead to deformed children. This is overshadowed by the missionaries' ham-fisted attempts to obliterate the native culture that flourished, very well, thank you, without top-hatted preachers denouncing the innocent natives as the devil incarnate.

Hale eventually realizes that he must become the islanders' advocate, and does so as he approaches old age. The final scene, where Hale is stripped of his church duties only to finally see that one of his previous actions ended with a positive result, is rendered tragically useless. The film's moral – that ALL cultures should be treated with respect and not disru
pted, is one that a lot of nations should adhere to.

The Btu-Ray edition of Hawaii from Twilight Time, limited to 3,000 copies, is stellar as always. Included along with the film's 16-minute version – which sails past like a swan on a lake – the film's 189-minute roadshow version is included. The longer version has an intermission break with the glorious music of Elmer Bernstein as an added bonus. (While it was a daring move, when Quentin Tarantino pulled a similar gimmick with his release of The Hateful Eight last year, it didn't detract from the fact that his bloated western was little more than a filmed stage play!) There is an isolated music score and subtitles for the hard of hearing, and yes, those marvelous liner notes from Julie Kirgo as well. Hawaii can be recommended for an evening of old-school motion picture entertainment. 

No comments:

Post a Comment