A cynical Welsh hotel owner secretly romances a diplomat's wife in Haiti, under the violent reign of the despot "Papa Doc" Duvalier.A cynical Welsh hotel owner secretly romances a diplomat's wife in Haiti, under the violent reign of the despot "Papa Doc" Duvalier.A cynical Welsh hotel owner secretly romances a diplomat's wife in Haiti, under the violent reign of the despot "Papa Doc" Duvalier.
The great storyteller that he was, Graham Greene must have woven the elements of this story together very well in his novel. But here we have two big separate stories butting heads with one another. The first is the adulterous love affair between the two leads, Richard Burton as Brown and Elizabeth Taylor as Martha. The second is the plight of the people of Haiti living in a constant state of terror under the ruthless Duvalier and his henchmen. But then, two other elements that Greene no doubt worked into his single story, here appear to be separate stories awkwardly sandwiched into the two main stories. They are the businesses of Major Jones, played by Alec Guinness, and of Smith, played by Paul Ford. The end result is a plot with many subplots – all poorly connected.
Besides the leads, the film has several stellar actors. Guinness and Ford are joined by Peter Ustinov as Ambassador Pineda, Lillian Gish as Mrs. Smith, and James Earl Jones as Dr. Magiot. A handful of others in the supporting cast also give good performances in the film.
The direction and editing are weak. The cinematography is good and the location does a good job showing the scenery and conditions as they might have been in Haiti from the late 1950s through most of the 20th century. But for that historical connection and the performances of the supporting cast, this film is hardly worth watching. At the end of the movie, it seemed to me that I had been watching a belabored story about a sex-driven but frustrated white hotel owner in Haiti who couldn't find fulfillment in anything he did.
Movie fans who enjoy history may find Duvalier's story interesting. He was a physician who treated the poor and suffering people of Haiti in his early life. That's where he got his endearing moniker from the people, "Papa Doc." He was elected president in a free open election in 1957. But he soon became crazed with power. He killed 30,000 of his countrymen and established a reign of fear and terror, while the poor of his country suffered all the more.
- Oct 8, 2015