DVD Review HTF DVD REVIEW: The Hawaiians (MGM MOD)

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Matt Hough, Feb 15, 2011.

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  1. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Executive Producer
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    The Hawaiians (MGM MOD)
    Directed by  Tom Gries

    Studio: MGM
    Year: 1970
    Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 anamorphic  
    Running Time: 132 minutes
    Rating: R
    Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 mono English
    Subtitles:  none

    MSRP:  $ 19.98


    Release Date: January  2011

    Review Date:  February 15, 2011 



    The Film

    3.5/5


    James Michener’s mammoth novel Hawaii generated a moderately interesting 1966 roadshow epic starring Julie Andrews, Max von Sydow, and Richard Harris, but the three hour film made only a dent in the sprawling story contained in the book. Four years after the original film came its sequel The Hawaiians, a more melodramatic and episodic continuation of material from the book's second half. There is a much less epic feel to The Hawaiians, and its cast doesn’t quite possess the star power of the original film. Still, it’s an entertaining enough adventure yarn covering three generations of two families both inhabiting the turbulent tropical isle as it moved into the 20th century.


    After the death of his grandfather on whom he was counting to gain a share of his shipping business, Whip Hoxworth (Charlton Heston) is cut out of all money and the maritime trade. All he’s given is several thousand acres of what seems to be worthless land. He trusts an alcoholic water diviner to find water on the grounds, and when he does, Whip finds that the land will support crops. With the help of Chinese immigrants Nyuk Tsin (Tina Chen) and Mun Ki (Mako), whom he allows to live on his property, he is able to begin a pineapple cultivation business that makes him a very wealthy man. But times are rapidly changing in Hawaii as Queen Liliuokalani (Naomi Stevens) wants white men out right at the time that the United States is looking to annex the territory. Troubles with leprosy and plague bring additional problems to the nation as it enters the new century.


    The parallel stories of the Hoxworths and the Kis are never less than interesting even when James R. Webb’s screenplay jumps greater and greater spans of time as the movie progresses (very similar to his narrative approach to How the West Was Won): one minute Heston’s son is starting school and in the next scene he’s a teenager off on his first sea voyage as a sailor. Then, the next time we see him after that, he’s being played by John Phillip Law as a grown man (looking nothing like his teenaged self). But with such a vast book as a source, it’s understandable that chunks are plucked from it for dramatic emphasis. The picking and choosing just seems so abrupt with nothing in the way of smooth transitions to ease the flow as time passes.The film’s most serious flaw, however, is its singular lack of visual flair from director Tom Gries. Dealing with a story as enormous and richly inclusive as Giant, The Hawaiians should have been a feast for the eyes (especially given its tropical locale), but Gries doesn’t exploit his surroundings in the least, and the camerawork is plodding and dull. The only moment of any grace occurs when a plague-ravaged body is tossed off a cliff into the sea, the overhead camerawork allowing a gorgeous look at the awful majesty of those cliffs with their sheer drop into the Pacific Ocean.


    Charlton Heston does his usual workmanlike job as the aggressive go-getter, and Geraldine Chaplin plays his wife who turns frigid after the birth of their child (the script giving her no motivation for her actions leaving the actress to her own resources). The film’s true key player is Tina Chen as the Chinese stowaway who gives birth to six children and becomes a business genius running her extensive family like a well-oiled machine. The scene where she’s reunited with her children after an absence of many years is handled with subtle tenderness by the actress; it is unquestionably the film’s finest moment. Mako has some effective scenes as the man who only thinks he’s in control of his own destiny. Alec McCowen as Heston’s snake-like brother-in-law (who ultimately becomes the island’s first president) underplays the role quite beautifully. Naomi Stevens is an unfortunate choice to play the island’s Queen Liliuokalani. She’s a fine actress, but no amount of tropical makeup will make her look native to the area. John Phillip Law, Chris Robinson, and Keye Luke all contribute respectable performances in their smaller roles.



    Video Quality

    3/5


    The film has been framed at its Panavision aspect ratio of 2.35:1, and the image is anamorphically enhanced for widescreen televisions. Even with such enhancement, there is ghosting in the image, especially noticeable in medium shots which can get really annoying at times. Color density is decent enough without any spellbinding bursts of saturation, and flesh tones are natural. Detail in close-ups is decent, but black levels are quite mediocre possibly due to only average contrast, and there are moiré patterns that distract on more than one occasion. When foreign dialects are spoken, they are subtitled in yellow which shows up very nicely on screen. The film has been divided into chapters every ten minutes.



    Audio Quality

    3/5


    The Dolby Digital 2.0 mono audio track is decoded by Dolby Prologic into the center channel. Fidelity is fairly lacking in this rather humdrum mix. Dialogue has been recorded cleanly and is perfectly discernible at all times, and Henry Mancini’s score, not one of his finer efforts, and the various sound effects never intrude on what is being said. Still, it’s a fairly uninspired soundtrack.



    Special Features

    1/5


    The film’s theatrical trailer is presented in nonanamorphic letterbox and runs 3 ¼ minutes.



    In Conclusion

    3/5 (not an average)


    The Hawaiians is not the equal of its parent film, but on its own, it presents an entertaining melodrama with a handful of memorable characters. The manufactured-on-demand disc has video problems especially, but those who have wanted their own copy of the movie can have it now.




    Matt Hough

    Charlotte, NC

     
  2. ahollis

    ahollis Lead Actor

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    In Walter Mirisch book, "I Thought We Were Making Movies, Not History" he says that Hawaii director George Roy Hill kept proposing an idea to film two epic films from the book and started it, As the costs started spiraling out of control the Mirisch's put a stop to the two films and had him wrap up the story as one epic. The Hawaiians is supposedly a by product of the rest of that screenplay. The film is truly a guilty pleasure and certainly a product of that era.


    The book is a pretty good read on the Mirisch era of film-making and covers just about every film they made.
     
  3. Stefan Andersson

    Stefan Andersson Second Unit

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    In Kevin Brownlow´s David Lean biography it says Lean briefly worked/was interested in the Hawaii project. Apparently Fred Zinnemann also wanted to do a two-part movie, starring Alec Guinness and Audrey Hepburn. In an issue of a Swedish film magazine from around 1962 there is a brief mention of a Zinnemann project with Guinness and Hepburn. The Michener novel isn´t mentioned, but the inference is that the project is based on a famous novel. Does the Mirisch book say anything about this?
     
  4. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Executive Producer
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    I remember some talk at the time that Julie Andrews ended up getting the part originally intended for Audrey Hepburn since Hepburn had earlier played Andrews' stage role in the film of My Fair Lady. I would love to read the Mirisch book.
     
  5. Charles H

    Charles H Screenwriter

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    I would love to see a restored SE of HAWAII (with the 20 missing minutes that were on the ld and VHS). It's a very underrated epic, and its unsympathetic protagonist anticipates There Will Be Blood. Also a superb Elmer Bernstein score.
     

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