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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

"The Night of the Iguana" (1964)

The lurid tagline was "One man...three night...", obviously trying to cash in on the sultry psycho-sexual plots of other films adapted from Tennessee Williams' plays. But this one was something different, a tale of finding redemption and inner peace with life's demons. A disparate group of lonely types find themselves in a remote corner of Mexico removed from civilization in a down-at-the-heels hotel. A defrocked alcoholic priest hanging on to the last shreds of his faith (Richard Burton), a saintly vagabond artist caring for her elderly father (Deborah Kerr), a shrewish Bible thumper on a cook's tour (Oscar nominated Grayson Hall), and the hotel's earthy free-sprit proprietor (Ava Gardner). These lives are at their at the end of their rope just like the metaphorical iguana tied under the property's porch. Maybe one night's soul searching will set everyone free. The acting is aces all around. Burton was always good at inner anguish. Kerr makes decency attractive when it could easily be off-putting. And Gardner shines. She's loose, bawdy, and sexy as hell, never better. It took the rascally director John Huston to corral these big personalities and the result is a fine adaptation of a rare open-hearted Williams piece.

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