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, ...
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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 »
The next time you strike an Indian for any reason whatsoever, it is you who is going to be sent away. They are different from us, they don't understand! And besides that, it could be very dangerous for us all.
Do you want Billy seeing their filthy tricks?
It will not seem filthy to him unless we make it so. Honey, it is very natural.
Natural? And if one of those nasty little savages puts a hand on him?
Then he might enjoy it.
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Long and tedious (it lasts a little over three hours, but seems much longer than that), the primary problem with this movie is that it never really seems to decide what it wants to be or where it wants to go. Is this a story about the struggle of missionaries to adjust to their lives in the Amazon? Is it about Catholic/Protestant rivalry? Is it about rediscovering one's roots? Is it about giving us a glimpse of native culture? Is it about the effort to drive the natives off their land? It tries to be about all of these, and the end result is that it doesn't do any of them particularly well. Had the movie chosen to focus on one or two of those storylines (and if it had been cut by at least an hour) it might have made a decent film. As it is, it's very disappointing.
The performances are somewhat inconsistent. Tom Berenger was quite good as Lewis Moon, part white and part Indian, who decides to rediscover his native roots by joining the native tribe. Aidan Quinn and Kathy Bates offered the best performances among the missionaries: Quinn as Martin Quarrier, the missionary who begins to doubt the value of his work almost from the beginning, and Bates as his wife Hazel, the more devout of the two at the beginning, but who finds that her faith isn't sufficient to see her through the struggles of missionary life, and who eventually loses her mind. John Lithgow had potential in this movie. He was, I thought, well cast as Leslie Huben, the head missionary, but was unfortunately underused - although he performed well when given the chance. What can one say about Daryl Hannah as Andy, Leslie's wife? She seems to have no real role except to serve as window dressing. I thought it interesting that in a movie which featured a lot of nudity (appropriate nudity, since this film is set among Amazon natives for whom nudity would be commonplace) Hannah is the only one of the major "white" characters who was given a nude scene - the value of which (a close up topless shot) was questionable. What does that say about the reason she was cast?
There are some strong points to this movie. The scenes around the death of young Billy (Martin and Hazel's son) are dramatic and poignant. The scene in which Hazel finally goes totally insane is both sad and funny, and completely unexpected. There's a good attempt at demonstrating the problems that arise when cultures clash, and some fascinating looks at the life and customs of the native peoples (one hopes these are authentic, and not created by Hollywood.) Also, shot on location in the Amazon Basin, there is (in the first half of the movie primarily) some spectacular photography of the area.
These strong points, though, can't make up for the inherent weaknesses of the film. Generously - 3/10.
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