Arctic prospector Jack McCann (Gene Hackman), after fifteen years of solitary searching, becomes one of the world's wealthiest men when he literally falls into a mountain of gold in 1925. Twenty years later, in 1945, he lives in luxury on a Caribbean island that he owns. But his wealth brings him no peace of mind as he copes with Helen (Jane Lapotaire), his bored, alcoholic wife; Tracy (Theresa Russell), his dear, but headstrong, daughter who has married a dissolute, philandering social-climber; and Miami mobsters who want his island to build a casino. His life is entangled with the obsessions of those around him with greed, power, and debauchery against a background of occult symbolism.Written by
Jerry Caplin <JCaplin001@aol.com>
Although this movie has strong references to Citizen Kane (1941), there were no connections in Nicolas Roeg and Paul Mayersberg's minds between the semi-invented character of Jack McCann and the real-life William Randolph Hearst, the connection was instead to Orson Welles, who struck gold with Citizen Kane (1941) and then paid for the rest of his life with despair. The story that interested Roeg and Maysersberg was what it does to someone to get what he or she wants and then find that his or her life is over afterwards because there's nothing left to get. See more »
Jack McCann's discovery of the gold is several times said to take place in the winter of 1925. At this time, McCann has no family and is a complete loner. Yet, when the film moves forward to 1945, he has a married daughter who is said to be twenty years old in the early part of 1945. Her mother, McCann's wife, is an aristocratic Englishwoman who has married him for his money, and who therefore cannot have married him before 1926 at the earliest, which makes the daughter unlikely to be more than 18 in the 1945 scenes. Theresa Russell, who plays the daughter, was in her late twenties when the film opened. See more »
I loved my father before I loved you.
Claude Maillot Van Horn:
Was he more violent than me?
Stop asking me about violence!
Claude Maillot Van Horn:
Your father was savagely murdered, beaten, his head cut off. I'm on trial for my life. If I'm found guilty they'll hang me by the neck. This isn't a time or place to be shy about violence.
See more »
Although the UK cinema version was intact the 1986 Warner video release was missing 7 seconds from the death of Jack McCann, notably shots of a flame thrower being run over his body and face. These were not cut by the BBFC so presumably they were distributor edits. DVD releases are fully uncut. See more »
I too first saw this in London when it came out May 1983, at the Screen on the Hill. It was my O-level year, and I was a skinny, awkward 15-year-old, desperately trying to get into my first 18-rated film. It worked. But was it worth it? The film has an extraordinary opening section, as Gene Hackman finds the gold under the snow-encrusted earth, culminating in a spectacular, slow-motion explosion of rock and snow. Set to extracts of Wagner's DAS RHEINGOLD, it's unforgettable, thrilling cinema, and had my jaw dropping into my cappuccino. We also have the sight of a dying, half-frozen man blowing his brains out again and again, bringing to mind the disjointed, hallucinatory quality one recognises from the director of THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH and DON'T LOOK NOW. Stunning, disturbing stuff.
Unfortunately the momentum quickly slackens as we cut forwards in time to a rather dull, plodding melodrama about a Kane-like man who in his anguish says, "Once I had it all...now I only have everything." (Coming after the prologue, this also applies to the film itself.) There's some nasty scenes involving voodoo and Rutger Hauer doing something rather strange with a python, some gut-wrenching violence involving a blow-torch and the contents of a pillow, and a soap-opera court-room finale that feels as if it's wandered in from an entirely different film altogether. There are rumours of a different film lurking in this exuberant mess: one of the film's stars has hinted that it was not Roeg's final version that we saw. But I couldn't call this a success. Roeg fans should check it out as an oddity, but be warned: after the brilliant beginning, it's downhill all the way.
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