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For a film that's billed as a romance movie, this has got a surprising
amount of good suspense and action. It's really an adventure story with
a romance angle. It's also very interesting and a good film with decent
special effects, at least for when this was made.
It's almost a "Count Of Monte Cristo" story with an innocent man imprisoned on an island and finally succeeding in escaping. However, in this story, the escapee "Terangi" (John Hall) also has to battle a hurricane after escaping!
The film starts slowly in the first half hour, but stick with it, it's worth it. The story becomes very involving as "Terangi" begins his battle against "the law," which is not pictured very flattering here. In that respect, the film is ahead of its time with its anti-government message. However, it's behind the times with the typical classic-era white man trying to pass himself off as a dark-skinned island native. Dorothy Lamour is likewise as "Marama," Terangi's wife.
The cinematography is very good and the direction excellent. Then again, one of the best directors of all time did this film: John Ford. It also has a nice cast. Look at the supporting actors: Mary Astor, Raymond Massey, C. Aubrey Smith, Thomas Mitchell and John Carradine!
A solid Golden Age adventure story and one of the best of the 1930s decade.
JON HALL stars as a hot-tempered native on a fictional South Seas
island called Manakoora, run by a strict martinet of a governor, played
by RAYMOND MASSEY. After petty theft and a brawl, Hall is hauled into
jail and given a strict sentence that separates him from his new wife,
a native girl Marama played by DOROTHY LAMOUR.
Hall and Lamour are both in their physical prime. Hunky Hall is shown to advantage in the central role in a series of adventurous escapes from prison, climaxed by his authority in leading some of the islanders to safety during the climactic storm. Close-ups magnify Lamour's sultry beauty and handsome Hall is likewise photographed like a Greek God in profile. Ford has directed a film rich in character and settings with some stunning B&W photography.
Aside from the leads, good character roles are abundant. RAYMOND MASSEY, MARY ASTOR (as his loyal wife), THOMAS MITCHELL (another one of his drunken doctor roles) and JOHN CARRADINE as a sadistic warden, are all memorable.
Escapist entertainment with a South Seas setting and two photogenic co-stars who would both move on to better things in the '40s. But Jon Hall never had a better role than he does here as Terangi, the resourceful man who dives off a steep cliff into the calm waters of an enchanted island paradise during one of his many escapes.
As for "the hurricane", it's so realistic that you have to see it to believe it. And all this was before CGI effects--a brilliant job.
Alfred Newman's exotic background music is woven around a theme later called "The Moon of Manakoora" and turned into a popular song for Dorothy Lamour to warble. After seeing her in this film, no wonder she became the sarong girl of the '40s.
The Isle of Manakoora in the South Seas is an idyllic place. Swaying
palm trees & warm ocean waters enhance the enchantment. The contented
population idolize Terangi (Jon Hall), one of their native sons, first
mate on an important trading ship & new husband of Marama (Dorothy
Lamour), daughter of the Chief. But when Terangi falls foul of the laws
on Tahiti, and is cruelly imprisoned there, only the 'wind that blows
away the world' -THE HURRICANE - can scour away the injustices heaped
This is one of the great films of the 1930's - pure escapist entertainment. It creates a place that never existed, in this case Manakoora, and makes it seem totally real to the viewer. It's also a superb example of the magic performed by the folks in Hollywood's special effects departments. The storm which climaxes the movie is unsurpassed in its cinematic power & emotion.
Lamour & Hall are both excellent in their roles and are totally believable in the tribulations they endure as part of the plot. Lamour was kidded for the rest of her life about the 'sarong parts' she played in, but there was no reason to be ashamed for participation in this classic. As for Hall, (whose mother was Tahitian and whose uncle, James Norman Hall, wrote the story on which THE HURRICANE was based) this was his finest role; he was never to achieve the major stardom he deserved. Suffering from cancer, he died a suicide in 1979 at the age of 66.
The rest of the cast is equally topnotch: Raymond Massey, the stiff-necked Governor; Mary Astor, his sympathetic wife; Thomas Mitchell, the island's alcoholic doctor; Al Kikume, the native Chief; Jerome Cowan, a friendly captain; John Carradine, the satanic Tahitian prison warden; and marvelous old Sir C. Aubrey Smith, as the island's wise priest.
A couple of small quibbles: Would an island as small as Manakoora really have its own French Governor? And shouldn't this Pacific Ocean tropical storm more accurately be called a typhoon? Hurricanes are generally found in the Atlantic Ocean.
The South Seas island of Manikoora is alive with happiness on the day of the wedding of Terangi and Marama. Terangi has his honeymoon cut short, when he has to sail to deliver cargo to Tahiti. Terangi's visit to Tahiti becomes hell when he slugs a man in a barroom brawl and is unjustly sentenced to six months in prison mainly because he as a native islander hit a white man. Terangi repeatedly tries to escape and is caught each time, only to add more years to his sentence. Back on Manikoora, Governor De Laage makes no effort to release Terangi because in his mind Terangi is a law breaker and deserves to be punished, despite the words of his wife, priest, and island doctor to the otherwise. One night Terangi does manage to escape, even though he unknowingly knocks a guard to the ground, killing him. Father Paul rescues Terangi from the sea and arranges to meet Marama and their daughter Tita. When De Laage learns that Terangi is back on the island, he makes a determined effort to apprehend him, not realizing one of the most devastating hurricanes is coming to strike, which may destroy the whole island. A very good movie. I was expecting much footage of hurricane destruction, I didn't realize the plot aspect of the prison, which was a lot more than plot filler. Hall and Lamour were good, even though I enjoyed their movies from the 40's a lot better. Massey gives one of the best performances of his long career as De Laage, as a heartless and sadistic fellow. The special effects are amazing, even by 2004 standards. Beautiful on-location photography as well. Rating, 9.
Sure, the leads are silly, and there's a great deal of mannered melodrama to endure, but don't overlook this. Academy Award nominations for Thomas Mitchell and Alfred Newman, and a well-deserved Oscar win for Thomas Moulton, the credited sound guy. The 10 minute Hurricane sequence plays entirely without music; just sound effects and scattered dialog, shouted over the wind and waves. You'll forget that the wind is ringing the church bell constantly through the storm, until the church is washed away and the bell sound is suddenly gone. The visual action and stunts are extraordinary and ahead of their time. I show this sequence to my film sound students, and I wish I could get it on DVD!
It took John Ford another 18 years to get back to the south seas as a
film location after his award winning The Hurricane. He had an
incomplete trip with Mister Roberts in 1955, but then made it back for
Donovan's Reef in 1963.
Both The Hurricane and Donovan's Reef deal with racism and have as their settings, French colonial possessions in the south Pacific. Of course Donovan's Reef takes a far more light hearted approach. In both films Ford feels that colonialism is at best a mixed blessing for the native populace.
Jon Hall is a happy and content resident of the small island of Manakoora with a new wife. He's a sailor by trade, first mate on a ship captained by Jerome Cowan. While in Tahiti he defends himself in a barroom brawl, but gets sentenced for assault because he struck a white man. An obnoxious lout with political influence. His lot is made worse with repeated attempts to escape adding time on his sentence and all kinds of torture, physical and psychological, by a cruel guard played by John Carradine.
Meanwhile back on Manakoora wife Dorothy Lamour gives birth to a child and Hall becomes something of a native folk hero. That's most unsettling to the Governor Raymond Massey. Massey is one uptight dude with a lot of issues. He says he's defending the law, but he knows he's defending the concept of white supremacy and that fact isn't escaping any of his peers including his own wife Mary Astor.
Thomas Mitchell got nominated for his performance as a doctor with a bit of a thirst problem on Manakoora. A decent man, he's revolted by a lot of what he sees. As is C. Aubrey Smith the priest. Both Mitchell and Smith take comfort where they can, Mitchell in booze, Smith in his Catholic faith. Mitchell lost to Joseph Schildkraut for Best Supporting Actor, but two years later won with essentially the same role in Stagecoach.
The Hurricane won the very first Oscar given out for Special Effects and the hurricane which should have been called a typhoon in that part of the world even today is something to see. You will not forget the fury of nature that destroys C. Aubrey Smith's church. This ain't your Wizard of Oz type storm.
The Hurricane, John Ford's masterful film of 1937 is rightly remembered as one of the best disaster films of all time. It stands head above shoulders over should such miserable cinematic fare like CBS's ludicrous Category 7: Day of Destruction. For one thing, the hurricane in The Hurricane is not the focus of the story but its climax. Ford spends most of the movies developing the main characters of Terangi and Murama (played by Jon Hall and Dorothy Lamour respective) and their lives on the fictional South Pacific island of Manukura in French Polynesia. John Ford spends his time as any good story teller does in presenting sympathetic and unsympathetic characters (such as Raymond Massey's governor, Eugene De Laage and John Carradine's sadistic warden)and shows the obstacles that face these characters before leading up to the climatic hurricane of the movie title. Such patient work by Ford on his characters pays off in the climax of the movie when the hurricane hits. We, the viewers, care about the death of the people so affected. I found myself riveted by the climax, appalled at the death and destruction, as one should be by any disaster. Unlike Category 7, there is no temptation at all to laugh because Ford ultimately wasn't interested in special effects but in people and their effective characterization.
The story line of this movie gets a bit fanciful at times, but it doesn't
get out of hand and the movie does not pretend to be anything it isn't, so I
think most people well enjoy it.
There are several fine performances. My favorite is that of Raymond Massey as he is very convincing in the thankless role of a cold-hearted governer who towards the end shows a sadistic side and then, at the very end of the movie, shows that there is good in everybody.
Then there is the hurricane itself. Naturally I have not seen every movie ever made, but seeing how this movie predates the computer age the hurricane is surely the greatest special effects in movie history.
There is a great cast in this superb piece of Hollywood hokum. Jon Hall and
Dorothy Lamour are in there physical prime, Raymond Massey brings dignity
and his considerable acting skill to his role as the harsh Island governor,
the wonderfully photogenic C. Aubrey Smith (was he ever young I wonder) is
the priest and Thomas Mitchell plays his usual drunken Irishman (even
he's supposed to be French). The corn ball plot moves swiftly and is played
sincerely and the climatic hurricane scenes are still awe
For sheer entertainment I give it 9 out of ten.
When reviewing films made so long ago, such as John Ford's "The Hurricane" one MUST take into account the lack of computer graphics, etc., that so dominate today. This film of the late Thirties was an eye-opener in its day, and was rightly highly acclaimed for its power and effects. It even had a good story, and while there were some horrendous examples of overacting by today's standards (Aubrey Smith's final scene in the swamped Church is just one !) I felt overall it was an excellent movie. It set the seal for Dorothy Lamour to be an island maiden for many years to come, while it gave a great launchng pad for Jon Hall who unfortunately for him, never went on with it except mainly in T & A movies for Universal. The cast of Raymond Massey, Mary Astor and Thomas Mitchell (in a most familiar role for him!) all added to the quality of the film - full marks had to go to Ford for such an achievement.
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