Polynesian culture comes to pictorially splendid if dramatically insipid life in Delmer Daves’ 1951 remake of Bird of Paradise. Based on an old warhorse of a play and a 1932 film, the new film’s writer and director hasn’t seemed to budge an inch from the antiquated melodramatic underpinnings of the story, and the Hollywood actors chosen as the leading exotics seem more utilitarian (they were under contract and needed to work in something) than inspired choices.
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 480I/MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Audio: English 2.0 DD
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 1 Hr. 41 Min.
Package Includes: DVDAmray case
Disc Type: DVD-R
Release Date: 06/13/2013
French adventurer Andre Lawrence (Louis Jourdan) accompanies his college friend Tenga (Jeff Chandler) back to his Polynesian island for a three month vacation and becomes enraptured with the locale and its bizarre (to him) customs. He’s even more swept away by his friend’s alluring sister Kalua (Debra Paget), and while it’s obvious that she feels the same, island customs require that the two go through several unusual rituals before they can be married. But not everyone on the island welcomes the foreigner. Kahuna (Maurice Schwartz), the medicine man, had had an upsetting experience with the last white man (Everett Sloane) to visit the island. His eventual banishment instills in Kahuna a deep mistrust of Andre, and he seems bent on making his experience on the island a trial rather than a treasure. While Delmer Daves’ screenplay invents the character of Kalua’s brother Tenga which was not in the original play (a marvelous idea since he can explain to Andre as the audience surrogate the whys and wherefores of all of the peculiar customs and traditions), the gist of the story and its outrageous conclusion is kept intact and proves rather unsatisfying. Daves keeps the camera moving around his locations (it was filmed on various Hawaiian islands) yielding some spectacular scenery and some charming rituals which the Technicolor cameras capture grandly (the sight of hundreds of villagers swimming and padding out to greet their returning prince is a bountiful eyeful, and there is some lovely underwater photography, too). But the climax revolving around an erupting volcano is less dramatically developed, and the mix of a real, active volcano and studio special effects matting in characters to place them in harm’s way isn’t done very felicitously.Louis Jourdan gives an earnest if rather shallow performance as Andre Lawrence, eager not to scoff at customs that are alien to him but rather too subdued to insist on a say-so in matters that directly affect him. Jeff Chandler dons dark skin makeup again (after earning an Oscar nomination the year before in Broken Arrow as Cochise) as the island’s returning prince, Tenga, and his is the film’s most ingratiating performance. Debra Paget is about as exotic as a comic book as Kalua, and her moderate at best acting skills don’t delve very deeply into the emotions of the character or the conflicts she’s facing. It’s a very plastic performance. Everett Sloane has a couple of good scenes as the mysterious banished Akua while Maurice Schwartz spends the entire movie in a perpetual frown as Kahuna. Prince Lei Lani as the island’s chief shows a fine presence before the camera.
The Production Rating: 3/5
The film’s 1.33:1 theatrical aspect ratio is duplicated on this made-on-demand transfer. Sharpness is only average, and the Technicolor splendors of the original photography are only dimly echoed in the Eastmancolor masters Fox has left to work with. Blues are crisp and come off best, but much of the imagery is a bit dark resulting in a murkiness in the shadows and a lack of real detail. Color overall seems thick and somewhat unnatural, and skin tones are likewise unappealing. There is some colored debris present, and the reel change markers are present as well. The film has been divided into chapters every ten minutes so there are 11 chapters present on the disc.
Video Rating: 3/5 3D Rating: NA
The Dolby Digital 2.0 mono sound mix is decoded by Dolby Prologic into the center channel. As with many of the MOD releases from Fox, the volume has been set at system-threatening levels, so an adjustment is crucial if one doesn’t wish to listen to the film through constant distortion. With that adjustment, the sound overall has decent fidelity. Dialogue is always discernible and is never overpowered by the Daniele Amfitheatrof music score or the sound effects. There is some low level hiss on occasion and some rather consistent popping, too.
Audio Rating: 3/5
The Fox made-on-demand discs do not contain bonus features, not even a theatrical trailer.
Special Features Rating: 0/5
Old-fashioned melodrama served up with lush visuals and beautiful people are the focus of Bird of Paradise. It’s a routine entry in Fox’s disappointing made-on-demand series, but fans are likely happy just to have it at all finally on home video.
Overall Rating: 3/5
Reviewed By: Matt Hough
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