Plot: What’s it about?
Oberlus (Everett McGill) is a natural sailor and when it comes to the harpoon, no one can hold a candle to his skills. But this doesn’t mean much to his fellow sailors, who abuse him because of his face, which is half deformed. You would assume his skills out on the waters would be more important, but to the other fisherman, he’s little more than a useless freak of nature. So instead of allowing him to use his skills once they’re in the seas, the sailors beat up Oberlus and taunt him, using the name Iguana instead of his real one. But when Oberlus manages to escape and takes refuge on an isolated island, it seems as though his luck might have changed indeed. When a ship wrecks onto his new island home, Oberlus is so angry about his treatment, he starts to take the shipmates prisoner and seeks to imprison them all, including a kidnapped young woman. But is Oberlus just a beast like those men assumed, or will he eventually see the right path and opt to end his war against his fellow man?
I like films that offer adventure on the high seas, so when Anchor Bay released Monte Hellman’s Iguana, I was more than ready to look it over. This one might not be packed with action and adventure, but it is a solid picture and if on the slow side, the suspense and atmosphere it builds is well worth the time. Now I don’t mean to say Iguana is a dull movie, but it seems some folks can’t handle the slower moving films, so I wanted to warn them off this one. But those of you with attention spans will find a dark, but very well made picture, one which has remained a hidden gem for some time. I think now the movie will find an audience, as DVD reaches very far and has given some films a new life, which I am hoping will be the case with Iguana. Everett McGill is very good as the title character, but most viewers will latch onto Michael Madsen, who of course went on to moderate fame. This one boasts some terrific visuals, good acting, and masterful direction and as such, I am giving Iguana a high recommendation, if you’re interested then be sure to check it out.
I like some of director Monte Hellman’s films a lot and others, I could make due with a single viewing and never again. I don’t think Iguana is Hellman’s best effort, but I do like it and I think it shows his skills as a director in fine form. As he states on the commentary track, he had all sorts of limitations while making this picture, but as the film attests, it all worked out very well in the end. Hellman has a lot of experience with troubled, low budget productions though, so it is no surprise he emerges here in good shape. Other films directed by Hellman include The Shooting, Shatter, Avalanche Express, Cockfighter, Two-Lane Blacktop, and Ride In The Whirlwind. The cast here includes Everett McGill (Licence To Kill, The Straight Story), Fabio Testi (Virgin Killer, Blood in the Streets), Maru Valdivielso (The Lovers From The North Pole), and Michael Madsen (The Doors, Supreme Sanction).
Video: How does it look?
Iguana is presented in a 1.77:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. I was very surprised with this presentation, as the film looks very sharp here and the print used is impeccable. I knew this transfer would be a good one, but this image really impressed me and the score will reflect that in the end. The colors here look terrific and lush, but never bleed and flesh tones come across in fine, natural form also. I saw minimal problems with contrast as well, as shadows were deep and rich, while the detail level never suffered at all. This transfer comes as a surprise to be sure, but a good one and I think fans will appreciate the effort shown here.
Audio: How does it sound?
The included 2.0 surround track seems up to the task, with no real range or depth problems to speak of. The front channels are used very well and provide enough of a stage for the film’s audio, from the crashing waves to the simple vocals. I did like the presence in richer sequences though, where atmospheric effects and music were sometimes found and those instances were very effective. The vocals also surface in fine form here, no clarity or volume issues to report in the least. This one won’t blow the speakers off the walls, but it more than handles this material, which is what counts in the end.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This disc includes a talent file on Monte Hellman, as well as an audio commentary track with Hellman, writer Steven Gaydos, and star Everett McGill. This track is moderated by Dennis Bartok, who poses some good questions and ensures the commentary stays on a driven path, which is a nice element to have.