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GORGEOUS DOUBLE FEATURE OF HAWAII & THE HAWAIIANS

Twilight Time Blu Ray HAWAII Film Original Release: 1966
HAWAII: Max Von Sydow often played old men, even fifty years ago when he was young. He has not lost the game of chess with Death, yet, a nod to his central character in THE SEVENTH SEAL. He recently gave a scroll to catapult the new STAR WARS FORCE AWAKENS, and his most famous role is the title character in THE EXORCIST, where his wise Father Merrin tries and tries but just can't beat The Devil...

Before that, he was Jesus Christ himself in THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD. Yes, truly, Max Von Sydow has, religiously relating to the silver screen, from the top to the bottom of the rung, almost done it all: And wedged in-between those more famous turns is perhaps his most intense religious character, severe missionary Rev. Abner Hale, so desperately crazed from Yale to be sailed off to Hawaii to save every native "godless savage" soul, he just can't contain himself, yet at first he's unmarried. And with his personality, it's no surprise. Thus the awkward and not altogether visually perfect Sydow is a perfect fit for God but makes for an imperfect pair with the (always) lovely Julie Andrews, eventually becoming his missionary wife in Hawaii, long before it was the Hawaii we know today, and, although first billed from her small yet important number of giant roles including MARY POPPINS and THE SOUND OF MUSIC, it's Max's movie and almost his alone...

More Antique Artwork
Yet without the direction of THE STING and SLAP SHOT icon, George Roy Hill, turning the epic James A. Michener novel with screenwriter Dalton Trumbo into a three-hour film that doesn't feel that long at all, Sydow's intensity is what carries the entire film, and "shortens" it as well: A condensed story of an Island keeping within itself its own gods while Sydow's Hale just cannot allow it, and how berserk the preacher gets upon realizing his cause is a lost one...

And yet, at the same time, he has a truly endearing and caring synergy with the townspeople, including and especially the Oscar nominated Jocelyne LaGarde as the Island of Maui's human goddess (a sort of islander Hattie McDaniel), Malama Kanakoa aka the Ali'i Nui, who won't let her husband, really her own brother, be shoved off by this new couple in town; although she takes to the precious wife, Andrews, under her meaty wing, seeming more in touch with feelings than Biblical passages, and to teach her how to read...

"The Power of Christ Compels..."
Well there's where the double-edged sword comes in, as Christianity is viewed in both a good light, and, befitting Hollywood, mostly starting in the 1960's in particular, extremely negative.

The pros first, as Sydow's Hale keeps the girls from flinging themselves at sailors and thus, being prostitutes at thirteen, and is against incest, which eventually leads to birth abnormality: those babies being drowned in the sea upon birth, including one infant with a single birthmark that he saves, turning up later on. So within his impatient tantrums, he yearns to stop some horrible things, commonplace to the natives, and that most religions would be against.

And yet the real story lies on his awful misuse of powers, suspected all the way back home at Yale, eventually losing the will of the people, the trust of his original countrymen, and, most important of all, the love of his wife, who has her heart (from before she'd met the reverend) with the film's rogue maverick in Capt. Rafer Hoxworth, a re-occurring whaler and ex of Julie Andrews character, Jerusha Bromley Hale.

HAWAIIScore: ***1/2
Herein, the always-glorious Richard Harris is not given enough screen time to counterbalance the stiff preacher, and he's not the only wasted potential as a young, non-famous Gene Hackman, playing a Yale student who had set sale along with the leading man from England, has even fewer scenes and sadly, unlike Harris, could have been played by anyone. Thus, the best parts are the first half as we get a full account of the skinny preacher and his awkward courtship in New England...

The grueling vessel sailing to the Island as he stays steady and annoying helpful to the sea-sick "heathens"; and then the most fun is had between the hefty female Hawaiian ruler and Sydow, who won't bend an inch as he gets pummeled by just about everyone, all the way through, and the mystery isn't if he'll come around after so much bullying verbal fire and brimstone bursting from his verse-spouting mouth, but, if he does bend a bit, how that "miracle" will actually occur...

For then, after he curses his lost cause, our flowing, surprisingly contained and simple tale becomes a searing melodrama with heartbreak, disease, sporadic shades of true historic names, and then, there's plenty of... death. But the good news is, these parts don't last as long as the best scenes when, even as God is supposedly frowning on everyone but the "perfect" preacher, an immense flow of smiles are basking in the gorgeous Hawaiian sunshine, providing more than a glimpse upon the sublime landscape upon the actual location, a title character that, overall, while Max steals the picture, owns it through and through.

Twilight Time Cover of The Hawaiians YEAR: 1970
THE HAWAIIANS: A very important bit of trivia leads to the main casting of our hero in a sequel to a movie that had no particular hero, just a Bible-belting English "narrow-minded white man" preacher in HAWAII, sent from Yale to save the souls of the local savage as well as a not particularly friendly but dashing and handsome whaler...

One of these two men were supposed to be played by Charlton Heston instead of Max Von Sydow and Richard Harris. It would be practically impossible to imagine Heston as Sydow since Max's unlikable yet sympathetic preacher was basically an unattractive awkward clumsy geek, and about described that way by Julie Andrews' own family; nor could he pull off Harris's role since it was relatively small and unimportant. Although Heston plays Harris's son in this sequel, THE HAWAIIANS, feeling like a continuation the likes of a part two of a mini-series more than another motion picture on its own, despite the fact none of the original actors or actresses appear, being too old since this story occurs many decades later... Although in place of Sydow's perfect blond-haired, blue eyed, tall and handsome teenage son, Micah Hale, now a passive white man ruling Hawaii, not wanting to stir the pot, nor the oceans, or even a cup of tea, played by a short, unattractive, brown-haired, uptight Alex McGoohan, looking nothing like he was supposed to and is, in a passive/aggressive way, the bane in Heston's existence as his step-brother (obviously, Richard Harris married Max Von Sydow's daughter after HAWAII's end credits rolled). Heston's stern yet ultimately roguish and endearing Whip Hoxworth, screwed by the death-will of his step-father, doesn't want to be sent back to sea to pick up more Chinese labor (which is how the film begins, a boatload of abused Chinamen, and one woman, being taken as slaves to Hawaii led by a cutthroat Heston) for a profit, but to make a go on his own land, the first act being a sort of GIANT only involving water instead of oil. Yet, Mr. BEN HUR aside, the real scene-stealer, and who the film's truly about is Tina Chen as Nyuk Tsin. To make an already epic double feature review short, Tsin is to THE HAWAIIANS what Julie Andrews was to the original, only with more screen-time and much more importance: she's not into money and wants the country to remain pure but within a Chinese code for her enslaved people, not banking on the white man's monopolizing system, which is eventually the cause of, like the original, a firestorm conclusion: with a different cause, but the same lethal flames.

Beautiful Vintage Poster Artwork
In-between all this, the best parts are in Act Two, and what you'll wish will pan out in a romantic soap operatic way since Heston's tough ex-sea Captain turned Pineapple Farmer could have only made it thus far with the lovely Tsin's help after his wife gets dementia, so it seems inevitable that these polar opposites could possibly connect, maybe even in the romantic nature...

In fact, the Twilight Time Blu Ray Cover is liken to the first film, only instead of who's obviously Sydow and Andrews facing a boat from the beach, it's the silhouette of Heston in the romantic throes of... a girl who's not quite clearly visible since, other than a young busty trophy wife much later on, and Geraldine Chaplin as his partial Native Royal Hawaiian wife who goes slowly, torturously insane and wants nothing to do with him, sexually, after birthing one child.

So Heston never does acquire the type of true love for movie goers of the female kind, which this movie seems catered to from the onset... Meanwhile, the potential of Tina Chen, a wonderful actress with heart and soul delving into the part, ultimately, during the final act, becomes more of a hindrance than the moral compass she was intended to be... no thanks to Mako, another good actor who, after stricken by leprosy, has nothing left to do but die slowly with worse facial prosthetics than Anthony Zerbe's three year's later in the Steve McQueen prison flick, PAPILLON. A damn shame, because Heston and Chen's double-tiered story had their own unique, separate yet connected flavor, and seemed to share a dynamic that never pans out in any important or intriguing fashion. The Biblical Motion Picture Living Legend does a decent job in the lead role, going through the motions of an actor no stranger to the epic genre, especially since HAWAIIANS seems anything but, playing out like, as mentioned already, more of a television melodrama than something worthy on the wide, colorful screen, which is not altogether bad since Made-for-TV movies can often be far more entertaining, and more of an addictive time-filler... Then again, only a theater can fully capture the splendor of the Hawaiian landscape...

HAWAIIANScore: ***
And right as the first generation of characters become interesting enough to care about, they all age with phony gray hair, a few wrinkles, bags under the eyes and have kids who aren't interesting at all, including Heston's brooding son, who happens to be Cult Film Freak's personal favorite SINBAD three years later, John Philip Law, about as stone-cold in his acting as one of the Cook Island Statues. Plus the fact the historic aspect, taken from other selections of James A. Michener's giant novel mostly covered in HAWAII (the book's name), are rushed: a particular revolution takes place through bland dialogue in a boardroom, after which things rush to a literally blazing conclusion.

If only the young, energetic people we grew to care about didn't have to age so quickly. Heston made for a terrific square-jawed, dashingly ambiguous pirate of a man, and father Richard Harris would have been truly proud of his good/bad ambiguous nature. And yet, lacking the intense character-development of the original's scene-stealing lead, Max Von Sydow, and never sure what he, Heston, is after, THE HAWAIIANS is a passable continuation, and you don't need to even see the original.

So while Sydow steals the original film that completely belongs to him, Heston provides a glimpse of what it would be like if Richard Harris played the HAWAII lead instead – and while neither films are classics, by any sense of the word, you'll be entertained, and that's good enough because, after all, how could four relatively short hours capture the always epic page-turning Michener, whose description of the Earth's creation sans God, in the very first chapter of his 700 page novel, takes about the same amount of time of experiencing this entire double-feature melodrama with unbeatable location shots. But given the location, that's a given... twofold.
Bette Midler to the far left behind white shall woman as a seasick extra in HAWAII Bette Midler HAWAII cameo
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