Combustible Celluloid
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With: Everett McGill, Michael Bradford, Roger Kendall, Robert Case, Luis Barboo, Fabio Testi, Jack Taylor, Maru Valdivielso, Pierangelo Pozzato, Alessandro Tasca, Fernando Cebrian, Charly Husey, Michael Madsen, Guillermo Anton, Ricardo Navarrete, Amaya Merino, Joseph Culp, Timothy C. Ryan, Agustin Guevara, Fernando De Juan, Yousaf Bokhari, Carmelo Reyes, Jose Alvarez, Juan Manuel Marquez
Written by: Monte Hellman, Steven Gaydos, David M. Zehr, based on a novel by Alberto Vázquez Figueroa
Directed by: Monte Hellman
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 98
Date: 04/01/1988

Iguana (1988)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Hostile Reptile

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

In 1978, Monte Hellman shot the Western China 9, Liberty 37 (1978) then had to wait 10 years before he was able to make his ninth film, Iguana. Essentially a pirate movie, Iguana was based on a novel by Alberto Vázquez Figueroa about a real life character (who was also immortalized in a Herman Melville story), a deformed sailor who took over an island and turned everyone who trespassed into his slave.

As played by Everett McGill (from Twin Peaks), the Iguana character, named Oberlus, is seriously unsympathetic and the film is subsequently hard to watch. Nevertheless, Hellman's beautifully observed direction makes the film mesmerizing, and Oberlus slowly turns into a tragic character, a hero in a kind of Beauty and the Beast story. I can't discount Iguana just yet, as repeated viewings might make it more indispensable.

Hellman and McGill provide a commentary track for Anchor Bay's DVD release. In 2014, Raro Video released a Blu-ray edition, which comes with a new 20-minute video interview with Hellman, and also a trailer, but no commentary track. But the new color-corrected transfer is quite good, and hopefully it will bring more viewers to this neglected filmmaker's work.

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