Haunting, mythical, beautiful
m j sanderson | doncaster, south yorkshire United Kingdom | 08/25/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"monte hellman's iguana is a real find. i'm always on the lookout for films that can overwhelm me with their atmosphere and their artistry. only a few films have ever succeeded (friedkin's SORCERER, argento's INFERNO, some of fulci's mid career films). this film is by no means perfect. but what is amazing is how hellman has created a magnificent work of art; from the most unpromising of scripts hellman has crafted a haunting fairy tale with a superbly realised mythical ambience. the script is bad, mcgill switches accents a couple of times, and the make up is poor. but hellman utilises the mechanics of cinema (images, sounds, staging, cutting) to overcome budgetary and casting limitations, resulting in a film that is trashy but eloquent, haunting and astonishingly beautiful."
Flawed yet compelling mix of the real and the surreal
LGwriter | Astoria, N.Y. United States | 01/16/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Monte Hellman's Iguana is a unique film for this director, who previously helmed skewed action films like Two Lane Blacktop and Cockfighter, as well as the equally skewed Westerns Ride in the Whirlwind and The Shooting.Here he tells the tale of a 19th century sailor, Oberlus, played by Everett McGill--a man whose face is half normal, half bizarrely deformed, earning him the nickname that gives the film its title. His fellow sailors despise and ridicule him; he escapes to an abandoned isle in the Galapagos to establish his own "kingdom" based on his declaration of war on mankind.Making those who foolishly dock there his slaves, his kingdom grows to a total of five, aside from him--a studious ship's clerk, a cook, a mute, a beautiful woman, and the rebellious former captain of the ship on which Oberlus sailed. He brutalizes those who disobey him and rapes the woman repeatedly. In spite of the character's overly dark psychology, Hellman infuses the film with a momentum based on Oberlus' conflicting emotions. The Iguana, as it turns out, is not completely dark. He wants to learn to read and forces the clerk to teach him how. When the woman tells him she's pregnant, his face seems to soften; he then treats her with what appears to be a sense of compassion. The feel of this film is made compelling not so much by the acting, which is fine yet not great, but by the astute portraits of characters who respond to their imprisonment in various ways. For imprisonment can be physical--shown by the leg-irons Oberlus makes his "subjects" wear constantly--or psychological, that is, of course, the prison in which he himself exists.There are minor problems--McGill really doesn't know how to speak with a convincing accent that seems to be an attempt at Cockney, but doesn't quite make it. And the beheading of one "slave" by another is not credible based on the dialogue that immediately preceded the gruesome event. Yet in spite of these and other small mistakes, this is a film all the more remarkable because it is, in fact, based on a true story.Not a classic, surely, but an interesting work from a man whose first film was, believe it or not, the Roger Corman produced "The Beast From Haunted Cave". This (Iguana) was Hellman's penultimate film. Interesting that he started with a monster and (almost) ended with one as well..."