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Martin and Hazel Quarrier are small-town fundamentalist missionaries sent to the jungles of South America to convert the Indians. Their remote mission was previously run by the Catholics, before the natives murdered them all. They are sent by the pompous Leslie Huben, who runs the missionary effort in the area but who seems more concerned about competing with his Catholic 'rivals' than in the Indians themselves. Hazel is terrified of the Indians while Martin is fascinated. Soon American pilot Lewis Moon joins the Indian tribe but is attracted by Leslie's young wife, Andy. Can the interaction of these characters and cultures, and the advancing bulldozers of civilization, avoid disaster? Written by
Producer Saul Zaentz first tried to make this film in 1965, only to find that MGM owned the rights. He kept trying to buy them every time there was an administrative change at MGM up until 1989 when new studio heads Jay Kanter and Alan Ladd Jr decided that MGM would not be making the film. Zaentz still had to pay $1.4 million for the rights. See more »
A challenging adaptation of a work by a great American writer
A late adaptation of author-naturalist Peter Mathiessen's 1965 novel about missionaries in South America (Aidan Quinn and John Lithgow), their wives (Kathy Bates and Darryl Hannah, respectively) and their chance encounter with an American Indian (Tom Berenger) who is trying to exorcise the ghosts of his life on the reservation by joining a stone age tribe that the missionaries are trying to convert. This is a remarkable cast for a movie with such intense, personal themes, and each of the actors delivers an excellent performance. Berenger was perhaps an odd choice to play an American Indian, but he does the best that he can with the role.
Mathiessen is one of the great writers of the late twentieth century--an American answer to Graham Greene or Joseph Conrad, perhaps--whose literary canvas is literally almost the entire world. This is an appropriately challenging and demanding interpretation of his always challenging and demanding (though under-appreciated) work.
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