Under the Volcano


1h 49m 1984
Under the Volcano

Brief Synopsis

A day in life of self-destructive British consul on the eve of World War II.

Film Details

Also Known As
Bajo el volcán
MPAA Rating
Genre
Drama
Period
Adaptation
Release Date
1984
Production Company
Universal Clearances
Distribution Company
20th Century Fox; 20th Century Fox Distribution; Universal Pictures

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 49m

Synopsis

A day in life of self-destructive British consul on the eve of World War II.

Crew

Javier Aguilar

Production Assistant

Jorge Jimenez B

Production Manager

Else Blangsted

Sound Editor (Music)

Moritz Borman

Producer

Rogelio Gonzalez C

Production Assistant

Luciana Cabarga

Production Coordinator (Mexico)

Martin Cardenas

Set Decorator

Chris Carpenter

Sound Rerecording

Colin Charles

Sound Recording

Antonia Cortez

Wardrobe

Ximena Cuevas

Production Assistant

Angela Dodson

Costumes

Francois Duhamel

Stills

Chucho Duran

Special Effects

Pedro Escobedo

Production Supervisor

Gabriel Figueroa

Dp/Cinematographer

Gabriel Figueroa

Director Of Photography

Michael Fitzgerald

Executive Producer

John Franco

Script Supervisor

Guy Gallo

Screenwriter

Joaquin Garrido

Casting (Extras)

Arnold Gefsky

Associate Producer

Gunther Gerszo

Production Designer

Manuel Gonzales

Camera Operator

Fernando Garcia Gonzalez

Makeup

Fernando Garcia Gonzalez

Hairstyles

Jose Rodriguez Granada

Art Direction

Tom Gray

Unit Publicist

Danny Huston

Main Title Design

Marvin I Kosberg

Sound Editor (Dialogue)

Alejandro Leal

Production Assistant

Hector Lopez Lechuga

Associate Producer

Malcolm Lowry

Source Material (From Novel)

Keis Maes

Hairstyles

Keis Maes

Makeup (Jacqueline Bissett)

Felipe Marino

Production Assistant

Mel Metcalfe

Sound Rerecording

Martin Montes

Production Assistant

Manuel Munoz

Assistant Director

Lennie Niehaus

Original Music

Randy Nolen

Other

Alex North

Music

Anthony Palk

Sound Editor Supervisor

Terry Porter

Sound Rerecording

Mauricio Rojas

Production Supervisor

Teresa Sanchez

Hairstyles

Teresa Sanchez

Makeup

Wieland Schulz-keil

Producer

Anne M Shaw

Production Coordinator

Dennis Shaw

Assistant Director

Tom Shaw

Production Supervisor

Tom Shaw

Production Supervisor

Roberto Silvi

Editor

Elvio Sordoni

Assistant Editor

Stephanie Riggs Stelly

Plant Decorator

Elsa Wachter

Set Designer

Theresa Wachter

Set Decorator

Al Woodbury

Original Music

Film Details

Also Known As
Bajo el volcán
MPAA Rating
Genre
Drama
Period
Adaptation
Release Date
1984
Production Company
Universal Clearances
Distribution Company
20th Century Fox; 20th Century Fox Distribution; Universal Pictures

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 49m

Award Nominations

Best Actor

1984
Albert Finney

Best Score

1984

Articles

Under the Volcano


Based on a 1947 novel by an alcoholic, self-destructive writer named Malcolm Lowry, Under the Volcano (1984) is one of the rare successful examples of a film that does justice to a stream-of-consciousness book that supposedly couldn't be filmed. Geoffrey Firmin (Albert Finney) is a former British consul and relentless dipsomaniac on a tear through Mexico during the celebrated Day of the Dead in the late 1930s. His estranged wife, Yvonne (Jacqueline Bisset), and half-brother Hugh (Anthony Andrews), who once had a tryst with Yvonne, track him down and try to place a roadblock in his seemingly unstoppable ride to hell but ultimately put themselves in extreme danger as well thanks to a gang of fascistic thugs.

This project had bounced through Hollywood and abroad for decades through a startling variety of directors including Luis Buñuel, Ken Russell, Joseph Losey, and Jules Dassin, among others. Its eventual home in the hands of the 78-year-old director John Huston seems inevitable when one considers his previous two forays into dusty, conscience-breaking journeys through Mexico in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948) and 1964's The Night of the Iguana (which shares this film's cinematographer, the gifted Gabriel Figueroa). Huston's wild reputation included a few jaunts south of the border in his spare time as well, including an impulsive marriage to his last wife, Celeste Shane, in 1977. He also knew a thing or two about complicated, estranged marriages, as he separated from his fourth wife, Ricki Soma, in 1962 (when he bore son Danny with another woman); the pair were only legally separated by her death years later.

Huston was no stranger to difficult literary projects either. While some of his more famous films are taken from mainstream novels (Moby Dick [1956], The Red Badge of Courage [1951]), he showed a willingness to tackle works deemed off limits by most producers, particularly Flannery O'Connor's Wise Blood (which he directed with great success in 1979) and the Carson McCullers' Reflections in a Golden Eye (which didn't fare nearly as well in 1967). However, in the '80s Huston became more of a director-for-hire on more impersonal films like the forgotten 1980 horror film Phobia, the competent but impersonal 1981 soccer film Victory, and most infamously, 1982's mega-budget version of Annie, his only musical.

That last film's bald-pated Daddy Warbucks was played by Albert Finney, an actor with whom Huston struck up a rapport and whom he recruited as the personification of Geoffrey Firmin in Under the Volcano. Finney was enjoying a major career resurgence in between the two Huston films thanks to his Academy Award®-nominated role in 1983's The Dresser, the third of five total Oscar® nominations. One of the actors made famous through the "kitchen sink realism" movement of British cinema in the 1960s, Finney broke through as the lead in Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960) and became a box office star with Tom Jones (1963). His subsequent roles were often surprising and eclectic, ranging from a singing Dickens lead in Scrooge (1970) to Hercule Poirot in Murder on the Orient Express (1974). However, Under the Volcano proved to be another major career changer for both star and director, with Finney diving into more dark, sordid characters in Miller's Crossing (1990), Dennis Potter's TV swan song pairing of Karaoke and Cold Lazarus (both 1996), and the closest to his Firmin character, the boozing, womanizing innkeeper lead in 1990's wild TV adaptation of Kingsley Amis' The Green Man.

As for Huston, the film also kicked off an astonishing three-picture climax to his career, followed by two more highly regarded films, Prizzi's Honor (1985) and The Dead (1987). Under the Volcano earned Huston his best reviews in years, even earning a four-star Roger Ebert notice. Huston's health problems including a long-running battle with emphysema had plagued him in his final years, but he kept directing and acting to the end, dying on August 28, 1987 while shooting Mr. North (1988) for his son's directorial debut.

Another major name on Under the Volcano near the end of his career was composer Alex North, with whom Huston had worked on Wise Blood and The Misfits (1961). A major name in American film scoring, North made his reputation with films like A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) and Spartacus (1960). Even in old age he showed no signs of slowing down, turning in a particularly effective and revolutionary dark fantasy score for 1981's Dragonslayer. His work on Under the Volcano organically introduces much local instrumentation and often feels like it could be performed out in the street; aurally it is as crucial to the film as the cinematography and performances. North's work here earned him his thirteenth and final Oscar® nomination, though his only win came the next year with a much-overdue Honorary Award. North scored Huston's next two films with equal aplomb and died four years after the director in 1991.

Producers: Moritz Borman, Wieland Schulz-Keil
Director: John Huston
Screenplay: Guy Gallo (writer); Malcolm Lowry (novel)
Cinematography: Gabriel Figueroa
Art Direction: José Rodriguez Granada
Music: Alex North
Film Editing: Roberto Silvi
Cast: Albert Finney (Geoffrey Firmin), Jacqueline Bisset (Yvonne Firmin), Anthony Andrews (Hugh Firmin), Ignacio Lopez Tarzo (Dr. Vigil), Katy Jurado (Senora Gregoria), James Villiers (Brit), Dawson Bray (Quincey), Carlos Riquelme (Bustamante), Jim McCarthy (Gringo), Rene Ruiz 'Tun-Tun' (Dwarf)
C-112m. Letterboxed. Closed Captioning. Descriptive Video.

by Nathaniel Thompson

Sources:
McCarty, John. The Complete Films of John Huston. Virgin, 1994.
Viviani, Christian. "Under the Volcano: Before the Stillness." Essay for The Criterion Collection, October 2007.
Internet Movie Database (www.imdb.com)
Under The Volcano

Under the Volcano

Based on a 1947 novel by an alcoholic, self-destructive writer named Malcolm Lowry, Under the Volcano (1984) is one of the rare successful examples of a film that does justice to a stream-of-consciousness book that supposedly couldn't be filmed. Geoffrey Firmin (Albert Finney) is a former British consul and relentless dipsomaniac on a tear through Mexico during the celebrated Day of the Dead in the late 1930s. His estranged wife, Yvonne (Jacqueline Bisset), and half-brother Hugh (Anthony Andrews), who once had a tryst with Yvonne, track him down and try to place a roadblock in his seemingly unstoppable ride to hell but ultimately put themselves in extreme danger as well thanks to a gang of fascistic thugs. This project had bounced through Hollywood and abroad for decades through a startling variety of directors including Luis Buñuel, Ken Russell, Joseph Losey, and Jules Dassin, among others. Its eventual home in the hands of the 78-year-old director John Huston seems inevitable when one considers his previous two forays into dusty, conscience-breaking journeys through Mexico in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948) and 1964's The Night of the Iguana (which shares this film's cinematographer, the gifted Gabriel Figueroa). Huston's wild reputation included a few jaunts south of the border in his spare time as well, including an impulsive marriage to his last wife, Celeste Shane, in 1977. He also knew a thing or two about complicated, estranged marriages, as he separated from his fourth wife, Ricki Soma, in 1962 (when he bore son Danny with another woman); the pair were only legally separated by her death years later. Huston was no stranger to difficult literary projects either. While some of his more famous films are taken from mainstream novels (Moby Dick [1956], The Red Badge of Courage [1951]), he showed a willingness to tackle works deemed off limits by most producers, particularly Flannery O'Connor's Wise Blood (which he directed with great success in 1979) and the Carson McCullers' Reflections in a Golden Eye (which didn't fare nearly as well in 1967). However, in the '80s Huston became more of a director-for-hire on more impersonal films like the forgotten 1980 horror film Phobia, the competent but impersonal 1981 soccer film Victory, and most infamously, 1982's mega-budget version of Annie, his only musical. That last film's bald-pated Daddy Warbucks was played by Albert Finney, an actor with whom Huston struck up a rapport and whom he recruited as the personification of Geoffrey Firmin in Under the Volcano. Finney was enjoying a major career resurgence in between the two Huston films thanks to his Academy Award®-nominated role in 1983's The Dresser, the third of five total Oscar® nominations. One of the actors made famous through the "kitchen sink realism" movement of British cinema in the 1960s, Finney broke through as the lead in Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960) and became a box office star with Tom Jones (1963). His subsequent roles were often surprising and eclectic, ranging from a singing Dickens lead in Scrooge (1970) to Hercule Poirot in Murder on the Orient Express (1974). However, Under the Volcano proved to be another major career changer for both star and director, with Finney diving into more dark, sordid characters in Miller's Crossing (1990), Dennis Potter's TV swan song pairing of Karaoke and Cold Lazarus (both 1996), and the closest to his Firmin character, the boozing, womanizing innkeeper lead in 1990's wild TV adaptation of Kingsley Amis' The Green Man. As for Huston, the film also kicked off an astonishing three-picture climax to his career, followed by two more highly regarded films, Prizzi's Honor (1985) and The Dead (1987). Under the Volcano earned Huston his best reviews in years, even earning a four-star Roger Ebert notice. Huston's health problems including a long-running battle with emphysema had plagued him in his final years, but he kept directing and acting to the end, dying on August 28, 1987 while shooting Mr. North (1988) for his son's directorial debut. Another major name on Under the Volcano near the end of his career was composer Alex North, with whom Huston had worked on Wise Blood and The Misfits (1961). A major name in American film scoring, North made his reputation with films like A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) and Spartacus (1960). Even in old age he showed no signs of slowing down, turning in a particularly effective and revolutionary dark fantasy score for 1981's Dragonslayer. His work on Under the Volcano organically introduces much local instrumentation and often feels like it could be performed out in the street; aurally it is as crucial to the film as the cinematography and performances. North's work here earned him his thirteenth and final Oscar® nomination, though his only win came the next year with a much-overdue Honorary Award. North scored Huston's next two films with equal aplomb and died four years after the director in 1991. Producers: Moritz Borman, Wieland Schulz-Keil Director: John Huston Screenplay: Guy Gallo (writer); Malcolm Lowry (novel) Cinematography: Gabriel Figueroa Art Direction: José Rodriguez Granada Music: Alex North Film Editing: Roberto Silvi Cast: Albert Finney (Geoffrey Firmin), Jacqueline Bisset (Yvonne Firmin), Anthony Andrews (Hugh Firmin), Ignacio Lopez Tarzo (Dr. Vigil), Katy Jurado (Senora Gregoria), James Villiers (Brit), Dawson Bray (Quincey), Carlos Riquelme (Bustamante), Jim McCarthy (Gringo), Rene Ruiz 'Tun-Tun' (Dwarf) C-112m. Letterboxed. Closed Captioning. Descriptive Video. by Nathaniel Thompson Sources: McCarty, John. The Complete Films of John Huston. Virgin, 1994. Viviani, Christian. "Under the Volcano: Before the Stillness." Essay for The Criterion Collection, October 2007. Internet Movie Database (www.imdb.com)

Under the Volcano - Albert Finney in John Huston's UNDER THE VOLCANO on DVD


Malcolm Lowry's book Under the Volcano had already stymied many efforts at film adaptation when John Huston took it on. According to Todd McCarthy (see Footnote #1 below), Luis Buñuel, Jules Dassin, Joseph Losey and Ken Russell had all expressed interest, and at one time or another Richard Burton, Robert Shaw and Peter O'Toole had pursued the highly desirable lead role. John Huston's very late-career Under the Volcano returns the director to the Mexican setting of his previous Treasure of the Sierra Madre and The Night of the Iguana and showcases one of the better male performances of the 1980s in Albert Finney's drunken, self destructive Consul.

Criterion's disc is packed with extras illuminating this often-overlooked gem and its mysterious author, whose 1957 'death by misadventure' may have been a despairing suicide. Synopsis: Cuernavaca, 1938. Resigned from his post as a British Consul, Geoffrey Firmin (Albert Finney) maintains a seemingly endless drunk, agonizing over the fact that his wife has left him. He disgraces himself at a formal dinner party, accusing a German official (Günter Meisner) of supporting pro-Nazi sinarquista terrorism. The friendly Dr. Vigil (Ignacio López Tarso) pries Geoffrey away before he can start serious trouble. Geoffrey is shocked when his wife arrives the next day. Yvonne Firmin (Jacqueline Bisset) has returned to see if her marriage is salvageable and doesn't try to interfere with her husband's drinking. They join Geoffrey's brother Hugh (Anthony Andrews) in a tour of Day of the Dead celebrations, but it becomes clear that Geoffrey cannot handle getting back together again ... he cannot forget Yvonne's earlier infidelity. Geoffrey runs away, forcing Hugh and Yvonne to search bars in nearby towns. But Geoffrey has chosen El farolito, a dangerous lawless place higher up the slope of the volcano Popocapetl.

Books are judged unfilmable when their valued content consists of inner monologues difficult to translate into filmic terms. John Huston's screenwriters can't replicate all of the Consul's interior ravings and instead condense the Consul's barely-controlled delirium into a number of riveting speeches. Geoffrey Firmin's tragedy plays out in a deceptively beautiful Mexican paradise. Behind the jitters of an oncoming war, Fascist sinarquista officials and provocateurs are quietly murdering Communists and Jews. Firmin is too far gone to play a part in any of this; he's bent on alcoholic obliteration.

Under the Volcano straightens Malcolm Lowry's feverish blend of inner torment into a terrific vehicle for Albert Finney, who seems born to play the role. Firmin gives out with half-coherent monologues that verge on poetry. He relates to reality the same way he survives an amusement park ride, staying coherent, if completely scattered, even when his brain is going upside down and sideways. Firmin manages to make sleeping in the middle of the street into a trifling matter when a fellow Englishman (James Villiers) almost runs him over. With money to spend and partially enabled by his brother Hugh, Geoffrey staggers through the days. His ability to function while drunk is a curse, because any ordinary man would be too sickened to keep on destroying himself this way.

Geoffrey has plenty to run away from: a ruined diplomatic career, a guilty incident from the last war and his inability to accept Yvonne's one mistake, even though Geoffrey probably brought it on himself. The film eliminates many details about Yvonne and Hugh. In the book we are informed that Hugh has some plagiarism issues in his past and that Yvonne came from an abusive family. As Yvonne, Bisset suggests depths of involvement that convince us there's much more to the relationship than meets the eye. Hugh's exuberant charm -- guitar serenades, an impromptu bullfighting performance -- never explains why he's hiding out in Mexico caretaking for his out-of-control brother.

The key to everything is in Geoffrey's tortured face. Geoffrey doesn't deny his condition; he'd like nothing better than to reconcile his actions with reality. He's deranged, but not like Peter Lorre in the movie he watches, a madman who cannot differentiate between the object of his affections and a wax statue. Firmin has psychic limits, and although he wallows in self-pity in Yvonne's absence, he cannot trust her when she materializes before his eyes. Rejecting Yvonne means that he must face the yawning Hell before him alone. Huston sets Albert Finney free to carry the entire burden of this dilemma. Finney's face is like rubber, flying from the ecstasy of drinking to the evasive energy of his non-stop bluster. When Yvonne rallies Geoffrey to reclaim his life, his enthusiasm lasts only a few moments. He excuses himself from her bed, saying that being with her is just no good. When cornered by the notion that they could run away and start over, his face seems to implode in a grimace of horror.

Huston bathes Under the Volcano in the Mexican experience, from the magical Day of the Dead graveyard celebration to Geoffrey somehow functioning in the sunny streets and on a requisite Mexican bus ride. When things go bad, Firmin's status as a gringo makes him yet another luckless Fred C. Dobbs. El farolito, the brothel-bar that serves as Geoffrey's last stop is a demonic trap. Its freakish prostitutes and the wicked dwarf whoremaster (Rene Ruiz 'Tun Tun') border on the surreal, with Emilio Fernández himself stomping through carrying his victorious fighting cock. Alcohol can't bring Geoffrey Firmin's death wish to a climax, but blind bigotry and Fascist hatred will do the trick.

Symbols abound in Under the Volcano. Katy Jurado's clueless psychic tells Geoffrey that his wife may come back some day, when Yvonne has actually already returned; the book apparently maintains an ambiguity in which Yvonne's return might be a hallucination. If Huston can be faulted, it's that his gritty style doesn't normally embrace the kind of delirium that's needed. The film's rational surface is unlike Henning Carlsen's similarly themed Hunger, where we can practically smell the starving writer as he drags himself from one illusory experience to the next. Huston instead gives us a local screening of Karl Freund's Mad Love, where a screaming heroine (named Yvonne) recoils from Peter Lorre's uncontrollable passion.

Yvonne follows Geoffrey to the high-mountain cantina, replaying Malcolm Lowry's reference to the legend of Popocapetl. In the legend, the warrior Popocapetl loved the princess Ixtaccihuatl but she killed herself after being told that he died in battle. Popocapetl carried her corpse to the top of a mountain and perished as well. Their prostrate bodies formed the shape of the twin volcanoes.

Only one detail in the film seems false. Are the sleek dark glasses worn by Geoffrey Firmin something that existed in 1938?

Criterion's 2-disc DVD of Under the Volcano gives the colorful film a beautiful enhanced transfer that flatters Gabriel Figueroa's cinematography. Producers Michael Fitzgerald, Wieland Schulz-Keil and Moritz Borman go over the film's long path to the screen on a commentary, sharing segments with screenwriter Guy Gallo and John Huston's son Danny.

Disc two has four definitive extras. Jacqueline Bisset gives a thoughtful, thorough interview on her 'John Huston experience', explaining what it was like to be the sole female on location with Huston's macho crew. Gary Conklin's film Notes from Under the Volcano is a 60-minute compendium of behind-the-scenes material documenting most of the filming. Volcano: An Inquiry into the Life and Death of Malcolm Lowry is a fully researched 99-minute study of the noted author narrated by Richard Burton, made eight years before Huston's film. Lowry seems the classic example of the self-destructive author. He created one brilliant work but died wrestling with demons. This docu by Donald Brittain is perfect for the DVD and easily justifies Criterion's higher disc price.

Criterion producer Karen Stetler assembled the exemplary extras. They finish with a 1984 audio interview with John Huston conducted by Michel Ciment. The informative liner notes were written by Christian Viviani.

1. "Cracking the Volcano", Film Comment, August 1984

For more information about Under the Volcano, visit The Criterion Collection. To order Under the Volcano, go to TCM Shopping.

by Glenn Erickson

Under the Volcano - Albert Finney in John Huston's UNDER THE VOLCANO on DVD

Malcolm Lowry's book Under the Volcano had already stymied many efforts at film adaptation when John Huston took it on. According to Todd McCarthy (see Footnote #1 below), Luis Buñuel, Jules Dassin, Joseph Losey and Ken Russell had all expressed interest, and at one time or another Richard Burton, Robert Shaw and Peter O'Toole had pursued the highly desirable lead role. John Huston's very late-career Under the Volcano returns the director to the Mexican setting of his previous Treasure of the Sierra Madre and The Night of the Iguana and showcases one of the better male performances of the 1980s in Albert Finney's drunken, self destructive Consul. Criterion's disc is packed with extras illuminating this often-overlooked gem and its mysterious author, whose 1957 'death by misadventure' may have been a despairing suicide. Synopsis: Cuernavaca, 1938. Resigned from his post as a British Consul, Geoffrey Firmin (Albert Finney) maintains a seemingly endless drunk, agonizing over the fact that his wife has left him. He disgraces himself at a formal dinner party, accusing a German official (Günter Meisner) of supporting pro-Nazi sinarquista terrorism. The friendly Dr. Vigil (Ignacio López Tarso) pries Geoffrey away before he can start serious trouble. Geoffrey is shocked when his wife arrives the next day. Yvonne Firmin (Jacqueline Bisset) has returned to see if her marriage is salvageable and doesn't try to interfere with her husband's drinking. They join Geoffrey's brother Hugh (Anthony Andrews) in a tour of Day of the Dead celebrations, but it becomes clear that Geoffrey cannot handle getting back together again ... he cannot forget Yvonne's earlier infidelity. Geoffrey runs away, forcing Hugh and Yvonne to search bars in nearby towns. But Geoffrey has chosen El farolito, a dangerous lawless place higher up the slope of the volcano Popocapetl. Books are judged unfilmable when their valued content consists of inner monologues difficult to translate into filmic terms. John Huston's screenwriters can't replicate all of the Consul's interior ravings and instead condense the Consul's barely-controlled delirium into a number of riveting speeches. Geoffrey Firmin's tragedy plays out in a deceptively beautiful Mexican paradise. Behind the jitters of an oncoming war, Fascist sinarquista officials and provocateurs are quietly murdering Communists and Jews. Firmin is too far gone to play a part in any of this; he's bent on alcoholic obliteration. Under the Volcano straightens Malcolm Lowry's feverish blend of inner torment into a terrific vehicle for Albert Finney, who seems born to play the role. Firmin gives out with half-coherent monologues that verge on poetry. He relates to reality the same way he survives an amusement park ride, staying coherent, if completely scattered, even when his brain is going upside down and sideways. Firmin manages to make sleeping in the middle of the street into a trifling matter when a fellow Englishman (James Villiers) almost runs him over. With money to spend and partially enabled by his brother Hugh, Geoffrey staggers through the days. His ability to function while drunk is a curse, because any ordinary man would be too sickened to keep on destroying himself this way. Geoffrey has plenty to run away from: a ruined diplomatic career, a guilty incident from the last war and his inability to accept Yvonne's one mistake, even though Geoffrey probably brought it on himself. The film eliminates many details about Yvonne and Hugh. In the book we are informed that Hugh has some plagiarism issues in his past and that Yvonne came from an abusive family. As Yvonne, Bisset suggests depths of involvement that convince us there's much more to the relationship than meets the eye. Hugh's exuberant charm -- guitar serenades, an impromptu bullfighting performance -- never explains why he's hiding out in Mexico caretaking for his out-of-control brother. The key to everything is in Geoffrey's tortured face. Geoffrey doesn't deny his condition; he'd like nothing better than to reconcile his actions with reality. He's deranged, but not like Peter Lorre in the movie he watches, a madman who cannot differentiate between the object of his affections and a wax statue. Firmin has psychic limits, and although he wallows in self-pity in Yvonne's absence, he cannot trust her when she materializes before his eyes. Rejecting Yvonne means that he must face the yawning Hell before him alone. Huston sets Albert Finney free to carry the entire burden of this dilemma. Finney's face is like rubber, flying from the ecstasy of drinking to the evasive energy of his non-stop bluster. When Yvonne rallies Geoffrey to reclaim his life, his enthusiasm lasts only a few moments. He excuses himself from her bed, saying that being with her is just no good. When cornered by the notion that they could run away and start over, his face seems to implode in a grimace of horror. Huston bathes Under the Volcano in the Mexican experience, from the magical Day of the Dead graveyard celebration to Geoffrey somehow functioning in the sunny streets and on a requisite Mexican bus ride. When things go bad, Firmin's status as a gringo makes him yet another luckless Fred C. Dobbs. El farolito, the brothel-bar that serves as Geoffrey's last stop is a demonic trap. Its freakish prostitutes and the wicked dwarf whoremaster (Rene Ruiz 'Tun Tun') border on the surreal, with Emilio Fernández himself stomping through carrying his victorious fighting cock. Alcohol can't bring Geoffrey Firmin's death wish to a climax, but blind bigotry and Fascist hatred will do the trick. Symbols abound in Under the Volcano. Katy Jurado's clueless psychic tells Geoffrey that his wife may come back some day, when Yvonne has actually already returned; the book apparently maintains an ambiguity in which Yvonne's return might be a hallucination. If Huston can be faulted, it's that his gritty style doesn't normally embrace the kind of delirium that's needed. The film's rational surface is unlike Henning Carlsen's similarly themed Hunger, where we can practically smell the starving writer as he drags himself from one illusory experience to the next. Huston instead gives us a local screening of Karl Freund's Mad Love, where a screaming heroine (named Yvonne) recoils from Peter Lorre's uncontrollable passion. Yvonne follows Geoffrey to the high-mountain cantina, replaying Malcolm Lowry's reference to the legend of Popocapetl. In the legend, the warrior Popocapetl loved the princess Ixtaccihuatl but she killed herself after being told that he died in battle. Popocapetl carried her corpse to the top of a mountain and perished as well. Their prostrate bodies formed the shape of the twin volcanoes. Only one detail in the film seems false. Are the sleek dark glasses worn by Geoffrey Firmin something that existed in 1938? Criterion's 2-disc DVD of Under the Volcano gives the colorful film a beautiful enhanced transfer that flatters Gabriel Figueroa's cinematography. Producers Michael Fitzgerald, Wieland Schulz-Keil and Moritz Borman go over the film's long path to the screen on a commentary, sharing segments with screenwriter Guy Gallo and John Huston's son Danny. Disc two has four definitive extras. Jacqueline Bisset gives a thoughtful, thorough interview on her 'John Huston experience', explaining what it was like to be the sole female on location with Huston's macho crew. Gary Conklin's film Notes from Under the Volcano is a 60-minute compendium of behind-the-scenes material documenting most of the filming. Volcano: An Inquiry into the Life and Death of Malcolm Lowry is a fully researched 99-minute study of the noted author narrated by Richard Burton, made eight years before Huston's film. Lowry seems the classic example of the self-destructive author. He created one brilliant work but died wrestling with demons. This docu by Donald Brittain is perfect for the DVD and easily justifies Criterion's higher disc price. Criterion producer Karen Stetler assembled the exemplary extras. They finish with a 1984 audio interview with John Huston conducted by Michel Ciment. The informative liner notes were written by Christian Viviani. 1. "Cracking the Volcano", Film Comment, August 1984 For more information about Under the Volcano, visit The Criterion Collection. To order Under the Volcano, go to TCM Shopping. by Glenn Erickson

TCM Remembers - Katy Jurado


KATY JURADO, 1924 - 2002

Katy Jurado, an Oscar nominee and major actress in Westerns, died July 5th at the age of 78. She was born in Guadalajara, Mexico on January 16th 1924 as Maria Cristina Estella Marcela Jurado Garcia, daughter of a cattle rancher and an opera singer. Jurado started to appear in Mexican films in 1943. After 15 films in her native country, director Budd Boetticher saw Jurado attending a bullfight (Jurado wrote about the subject for Mexican newspapers) and cast her in his Bullfighter and the Lady (1952), her Hollywood debut. For much of her career Jurado alternated between the two film industries. In the US, she was memorable for the sensual energy she brought to roles in High Noon (1952), One-Eyed Jacks (1961) which was directed by Marlon Brando, Sam Peckinpah's Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1973) and John Huston's Under the Volcano (1984). She was nominated for an Oscar as Best Supporting Actress for Broken Lance (1954). Jurado's Mexican films were in a broader range of genres and included Luis Bunuel's El Bruto (1952), Ismael Rodriguez's We the Poor and Miguel Littin's The Widow Montiel (1979). She won three Ariel Awards (Mexican equivalent to the Oscars) and one special award. She was married to Ernest Borgnine from the end of 1959 to summer 1963. One of her final films was The Hi-Lo Country (1998), a contemporary Western directed by Stephen Frears and co-starring Woody Harrelson, Billy Crudup and Penelope Cruz.

by Lang Thompson

DOLORES GRAY, 1924 - 2002

Broadway and nightclub star Dolores Gray died June 26th at the age of 78. Her movie career was brief but consisted of high-profile MGM musicals which guaranteed her a place in film history. Gray was born in Chicago on June 7th, 1924 (and where, according to a common story, she was accidentally shot by a gangster as a child and had a bullet in her lung her entire life). As a teenager she began singing in California until Rudy Vallee featured her on his radio show. Gray moved to Broadway in 1944 and then to the London stage in 1947, solidifying her reputation as a singer/actress while constantly giving the gossip columnists plenty to write about. She had two small singing roles in Lady for a Night (1941) and Mr. Skeffington (1944) but didn't really light up the big screen until It's Always Fair Weather (1955) even though Gray reportedly didn't much care for the role. Her rendition of "Thanks a Lot, But No Thanks," which has her gunning down a slew of male dancers on-stage and kicking them through trap doors, is a genuine showstopper. Three more unforgettable musical roles quickly followed: Kismet (1955), The Opposite Sex (1956, which Gray turned down Funny Face to do) and Designing Women (1957). That was it for Gray's film career. She kept busy with TV appearances (mostly singing though she did one 1988 episode of the cult show Dr. Who) and a busy recording and nightclub schedule. In 1987, she appeared in a British production of Follies at Stephen Sondheim's request.

by Lang Thompson

ROD STEIGER, 1925 - 2002

From the docks of New York to the rural back roads of Mississippi to the war torn Russian steppes, Rod Steiger reveled in creating some of the most overpowering and difficult men on the screen. He could be a total scoundrel, embodying Machiavelli's idiom that "it's better to be feared than loved" in the movies. But as an actor he refused to be typecast and his wide range included characters who were secretly tormented (The Pawnbroker, 1965) or loners (Run of the Arrow, 1965) or eccentrics (The Loved One, 1965).

Along with Marlon Brando, Steiger helped bring the 'Method School' from the Group Theater and Actors Studio in New York to the screens of Hollywood. The Method technique, taught by Stella Adler and Lee Strasberg, insisted on complete immersion into the character's psyche and resulted in intense, dramatic performances and performers. Steiger made his first significant screen appearance as Brando's older brother in On the Waterfront (1954). Their climatic scene together in a taxicab is one of the great moments in American cinema.

It was a short leap from playing a crooked lawyer in On the Waterfront to playing the shady boxing promoter in The Harder They Fall (1956). Based on the tragic tale of true-life fighter Primo Carnera, The Harder They Fall details the corruption behind the scenes of professional boxing bouts. Steiger is a fight manager named Nick Benko who enlists newspaperman Eddie Willis (Humphrey Bogart in his final screen appearance) to drum up publicity for a fixed prizefight. While the boxing scenes were often brutally realistic, the most powerful dramatic moments took place between Steiger and Bogart on the sidelines.

As mob boss Al Capone (1959), Steiger got to play another man you loved to hate. He vividly depicted the criminal from his swaggering early days to his pathetic demise from syphilis. In Doctor Zhivago (1965), Steiger was the only American in the international cast, playing the hateful and perverse Komarovsky. During the production of Dr. Zhivago, Steiger often found himself at odds with director David Lean. Schooled in the British tradition, Lean valued the integrity of the script and demanded that actors remain faithful to the script. Steiger, on the other hand, relied on improvisation and spontaneity. When kissing the lovely Lara (played by Julie Christie), Steiger jammed his tongue into Christie's mouth to produce the desired reaction - disgust. It worked! While it might not have been Lean's approach, it brought a grittier edge to the prestige production and made Komarovsky is a detestable but truly memorable figure.

Steiger dared audiences to dislike him. As the smalltown southern Sheriff Gillespie in In The Heat of the Night (1967), Steiger embodied all the prejudices and suspicions of a racist. When a black northern lawyer, played by Sidney Poitier, arrives on the crime scene, Gillespie is forced to recognize his fellow man as an equal despite skin color. Here, Steiger's character started as a bigot and developed into a better man. He finally claimed a Best Actor Academy Award for his performance as Sheriff Gillespie.

Steiger was an actor's actor. A chameleon who didn't think twice about diving into challenging roles that others would shy away from. In the Private Screenings interview he did with host Robert Osborne he admitted that Paul Muni was one of his idols because of his total immersion into his roles. Steiger said, "I believe actors are supposed to create different human beings." And Steiger showed us a rich and diverse cross section of them.

by Jeremy Geltzer & Jeff Stafford

TCM Remembers - Katy Jurado

KATY JURADO, 1924 - 2002 Katy Jurado, an Oscar nominee and major actress in Westerns, died July 5th at the age of 78. She was born in Guadalajara, Mexico on January 16th 1924 as Maria Cristina Estella Marcela Jurado Garcia, daughter of a cattle rancher and an opera singer. Jurado started to appear in Mexican films in 1943. After 15 films in her native country, director Budd Boetticher saw Jurado attending a bullfight (Jurado wrote about the subject for Mexican newspapers) and cast her in his Bullfighter and the Lady (1952), her Hollywood debut. For much of her career Jurado alternated between the two film industries. In the US, she was memorable for the sensual energy she brought to roles in High Noon (1952), One-Eyed Jacks (1961) which was directed by Marlon Brando, Sam Peckinpah's Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1973) and John Huston's Under the Volcano (1984). She was nominated for an Oscar as Best Supporting Actress for Broken Lance (1954). Jurado's Mexican films were in a broader range of genres and included Luis Bunuel's El Bruto (1952), Ismael Rodriguez's We the Poor and Miguel Littin's The Widow Montiel (1979). She won three Ariel Awards (Mexican equivalent to the Oscars) and one special award. She was married to Ernest Borgnine from the end of 1959 to summer 1963. One of her final films was The Hi-Lo Country (1998), a contemporary Western directed by Stephen Frears and co-starring Woody Harrelson, Billy Crudup and Penelope Cruz. by Lang Thompson DOLORES GRAY, 1924 - 2002 Broadway and nightclub star Dolores Gray died June 26th at the age of 78. Her movie career was brief but consisted of high-profile MGM musicals which guaranteed her a place in film history. Gray was born in Chicago on June 7th, 1924 (and where, according to a common story, she was accidentally shot by a gangster as a child and had a bullet in her lung her entire life). As a teenager she began singing in California until Rudy Vallee featured her on his radio show. Gray moved to Broadway in 1944 and then to the London stage in 1947, solidifying her reputation as a singer/actress while constantly giving the gossip columnists plenty to write about. She had two small singing roles in Lady for a Night (1941) and Mr. Skeffington (1944) but didn't really light up the big screen until It's Always Fair Weather (1955) even though Gray reportedly didn't much care for the role. Her rendition of "Thanks a Lot, But No Thanks," which has her gunning down a slew of male dancers on-stage and kicking them through trap doors, is a genuine showstopper. Three more unforgettable musical roles quickly followed: Kismet (1955), The Opposite Sex (1956, which Gray turned down Funny Face to do) and Designing Women (1957). That was it for Gray's film career. She kept busy with TV appearances (mostly singing though she did one 1988 episode of the cult show Dr. Who) and a busy recording and nightclub schedule. In 1987, she appeared in a British production of Follies at Stephen Sondheim's request. by Lang Thompson ROD STEIGER, 1925 - 2002 From the docks of New York to the rural back roads of Mississippi to the war torn Russian steppes, Rod Steiger reveled in creating some of the most overpowering and difficult men on the screen. He could be a total scoundrel, embodying Machiavelli's idiom that "it's better to be feared than loved" in the movies. But as an actor he refused to be typecast and his wide range included characters who were secretly tormented (The Pawnbroker, 1965) or loners (Run of the Arrow, 1965) or eccentrics (The Loved One, 1965). Along with Marlon Brando, Steiger helped bring the 'Method School' from the Group Theater and Actors Studio in New York to the screens of Hollywood. The Method technique, taught by Stella Adler and Lee Strasberg, insisted on complete immersion into the character's psyche and resulted in intense, dramatic performances and performers. Steiger made his first significant screen appearance as Brando's older brother in On the Waterfront (1954). Their climatic scene together in a taxicab is one of the great moments in American cinema. It was a short leap from playing a crooked lawyer in On the Waterfront to playing the shady boxing promoter in The Harder They Fall (1956). Based on the tragic tale of true-life fighter Primo Carnera, The Harder They Fall details the corruption behind the scenes of professional boxing bouts. Steiger is a fight manager named Nick Benko who enlists newspaperman Eddie Willis (Humphrey Bogart in his final screen appearance) to drum up publicity for a fixed prizefight. While the boxing scenes were often brutally realistic, the most powerful dramatic moments took place between Steiger and Bogart on the sidelines. As mob boss Al Capone (1959), Steiger got to play another man you loved to hate. He vividly depicted the criminal from his swaggering early days to his pathetic demise from syphilis. In Doctor Zhivago (1965), Steiger was the only American in the international cast, playing the hateful and perverse Komarovsky. During the production of Dr. Zhivago, Steiger often found himself at odds with director David Lean. Schooled in the British tradition, Lean valued the integrity of the script and demanded that actors remain faithful to the script. Steiger, on the other hand, relied on improvisation and spontaneity. When kissing the lovely Lara (played by Julie Christie), Steiger jammed his tongue into Christie's mouth to produce the desired reaction - disgust. It worked! While it might not have been Lean's approach, it brought a grittier edge to the prestige production and made Komarovsky is a detestable but truly memorable figure. Steiger dared audiences to dislike him. As the smalltown southern Sheriff Gillespie in In The Heat of the Night (1967), Steiger embodied all the prejudices and suspicions of a racist. When a black northern lawyer, played by Sidney Poitier, arrives on the crime scene, Gillespie is forced to recognize his fellow man as an equal despite skin color. Here, Steiger's character started as a bigot and developed into a better man. He finally claimed a Best Actor Academy Award for his performance as Sheriff Gillespie. Steiger was an actor's actor. A chameleon who didn't think twice about diving into challenging roles that others would shy away from. In the Private Screenings interview he did with host Robert Osborne he admitted that Paul Muni was one of his idols because of his total immersion into his roles. Steiger said, "I believe actors are supposed to create different human beings." And Steiger showed us a rich and diverse cross section of them. by Jeremy Geltzer & Jeff Stafford

Quotes

Trivia

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States July 1984

Released in United States Summer July 1, 1984

Completed shooting March 1984.

Released in United States July 1984

Released in United States July 1984 (Shown at FILMEX: Los Angeles International Film Exposition (Opening Night) July 5-20, 1984.)

Released in United States Summer July 1, 1984