FILM REVIEW 'The Night of the Iguana' Dyptheria Visions; Life Fest.
" He spent most of his time closing his eyes. He could see wonderful, magnificent scenes in his mind."
Tennessee William's had dyptheria as a boy in Columbus, Mississippi circa 1914. His illness kept him in bed for days on end. With no radio wave available he produced his own. Williams would lay in bed for days soul traveling and reflecting. Dying, being born again, and dying.
The Black Foot Indian proverb, "A crow sees her baby white" perfectly describes Edwina William's soul felt insight into young Tennessee's post dyptheria reality. When he recovered in 1923, Edwina bought the boy a typewriter. As he began to type, a celebration of drunken life and beguiling humanity was born. Everything else, on or off Broadway or screen is a mere shadow compared to William's work.
Richard Burton and Tennessee Williams were notorious drunkards. Both were, "the best ever" at what they did. They were so good at "what they did" that they could throw most of it away and still come out at the tip of the heap. John Huston directed "The Night of the Iguana' in Mexico circa 1964. It was supposed to be set in the 40s. Once screened, there was no doubt that the cult film had become "a child of Bohemia," set in the 60s. John Huston, Richard Burton and Tennessee Williams smoked pot for the first time together on the set. The parties on and of the set in Puerto Vallarta were legendary. Two of the female cast, fellow revelers Ava Gardener and Deborah Kerr were given very independent, strong and hip characters to play by Williams. This was new for the 60s.
ASIDE: My origional intentions in reviewing 'Iguana' was to submit it to Roger Ebert. I realize now, why bother, lets have fun and dance! I said VB, if you are going to write, you have to write for yourself, not a suit rag. So if things degenerate from here onwards, you know why.
"Iguana" opens with as a nervous breakdown in process on pulpit. Reverend T. Lawrence Shannon , played by Richard Burton, is delivering a sermon to his flock of grey faced conservatives. On second look, Shannon realizes that something has died in them and is dying in him too. In a fury of flight or fear, he admonishes them for being hypocritical and boring.
Shannon gets de frocked and his Anglican Cross in taken away. He ends up on the bum in Mexico as a tour guide. This is a prefect example of how ones own insanity can lead them to greater truth.
I have watched this film over and over and have wondered what strange bedfellows Tennessee Williams and John Huston must have been on the shit, and on the set. Williams was a total flamer and Huston was soul searching for his gentler side after doing a litany of shit kicker cowboy movies. " Treasure of Sierra Madre" is a incredible film though, Huston filmed it in Mexico tin the 50s.
The drug references in 'Iguana' make it interesting to me, as a drug addict. You have to put this film in a time perspective, it came out before the Beatles, so only Bohemians like Ava Gardener and Blacks were doing dope then. Her character Maxine Faulk is the owner of the small banana leaf hut resort. Shannon brings his tour group there. In one scene when the church tour arrives, Maxine summons the Chinaman "cookie" to make some fish for the guest. ' Cookie' is shown wasted on opium on the kitchen floor. Making lunch for the church tour is a bust. In another scene towards the end, Shannon is having another 'breakdown', blaming it on inner 'spooks'. Maxine has to summon her beach boy marimba players to tie the reverend up in a hammock. She then pours cocaine tea down the his throat.
Another lovely women in 'Iguana' is Deborah Kerr, whose character Hannah Jelkes is a broke spinster traveling with her 90 year old poet father. She represents a kind of pre Sedona Arizona new age spirt person. Her father the poet with his white flowing hair looks like Carl Sandburg. He is trying to get his last turd out before he dies.
One more luscious bird here is Sue Lyon as Charlotte Goodall, who is type cast as a teenage nymph. (She goes on to perfect the nymphet roll in the awesome film 'Lolita'). As soon as she meets up with Reverend Shannon, she grabs his nuts, and later tries to rape him in a Mexican hotel room. As much as the Reverend prays to God, he ends up fucking Lolita repeatedly, without repent. Of course Lolita blames the "lust" on Shannon.
What I really love about the film is the humanness of character. Burton is just brilliant as he waxes oracularly like Othello and struggles to be "good' but always gives in to his inner passion and lust. Reverend Shannon is a terminally flawed character who never fits in or makes good. It takes him 100 tanks of gas to get by where it takes most people 10.
There is a scene in 'Iguana' from the original script by Tennessee Williams that was cut. It involves a visit to the Las Hammocks by a group of traveling Nazi nudist. The beach boy marimba players put cocaine in their tea. The Nazis turn into wild Boers and walk around the beach with boners.
Some critics believe Tennessee William's screen play ends the film too simplistically. He ends in the usual American way, with the hero getting the girl and going on to have nervous breakdowns another day. Shannon ends up with the Maxine, who needs a man around to help run things. I think the ending is pretty cool really. Living on the beach with all the dope you want in Mexico and getting to fuck Elizabeth Taylor on full moon nights in the bay. What else does a man want?