20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Cast: James Mason, Joan Fontaine, Dorothy Dandridge, Joan Collins, Michael Rennie, Harry Belafonte
Extras: Commentary Track, A&E Biography Documentary, Trailers
Once again I can say that having the task of watching and reviewing DVDs is really great way of experiencing some of the best films and documentaries, ones that I might have otherwise overlooked. Such is the case with "Island in the Sun", a film from before my generation and one that I discovered to be well worth the time invested to view and enjoy. With the amount of mediocrity that Hollywood seems to be churning out on DVD these days, it's simply too easy for a well made film and DVD like "Island in the Sun" to get lost in, that's why it gives me gratification to report these rare finds.
Treading on the controversial side, when "Island in the Sun" premiered in theaters in the late 1950's it was seen as almost unacceptable by some, as the story includes themes containing interracial romance. Playing out a bit like a soap opera, "Island in the Sun" serves up everything from romance, scandal and political intrigue on the sun soaked Caribbean Island of Santa Marta. Featuring great performances from the remarkable Dorothy Dandridge, James Mason, Joan Fontaine and Joan Collins, to name just a few, "Island in the Sun" brings together a great casting of characters with some truly memorable performances.
Things really heat up on the fictitious Caribbean Island of Santa Marta when wealthy and ambitious Maxwell Fleury (James Mason) finds himself being challenged by a Black political rival named David Boyeur (Harry Belafonte), who is threatening to unseat the British rule. With Fleury relying on a secret heritage that could possibly give him a better shot at winning over his competitor. Presenting no less than four separate romances that intertwine the story, from Jocelyn Fleury (played by the ever feisty Joan Collins) who vies to trap an English Lord into marriage to Maxwell dealing with his wife's infidelity that leads him into a murderous rage, the drama never ceases. Well written and superbly acted, "Island in the Sun" is a pure melodramatic delight to experience.
Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment has put together a nice package for its release of "Island in the Sun" and it all starts with a truly impressive transfer of the film. Displaying a vivid color spectrum, the good saturation of color enhances all the beauty of the tropical island setting of Santa Marta. Flesh tones remain natural in reproduction throughout, with a deep rich black level that defines every detail present. There is the odd spec of dust here and there, but this is very minor at best as the overall presentation truly shines on DVD.
I was also rather impressed with the soundtrack, available in a Dolby Surround 4.0 mix. Offering naturally appearing vocals and a decent level of bass, you can't help but admire how a film of this age has been preserved over the years. You're not going to get a full blown bombastic soundstage here, but the Harry Belafonte flavored soundtrack will take you back in time as you experience a treasure from the golden age of cinema.
This DVD also comes packed with a few great extras. The stand out feature for me is the complete A&E Biography "Dorothy Dandridge: Little Girl Lost", which takes a compelling look into the life of a forgotten talent that seemed to be way ahead of her time and the tragic turn of events that lead to her demise. Yet again the Arts & Entertainment Network has produced a fascinating and well presented documentary.
A nicely recorded and informative audio commentary from film writer and historian John Stanley is available as another special feature on this DVD.
The theatrical trailer for "Island in the Sun" and a Fox-Flix section features the trailers for both "South Pacific" and "Carmen Jones" complete the added value materials section.
I find it interesting to watch a film from many decades ago that, for it's time was considered daring and courageous. With the interracial romance and on-screen kiss between a male Black actor and fellow White female performer to be deemed brave, especially after what we are subjected to nowadays in film, seems so innocent and almost refreshing to experience some 50 years later.
If you haven't seen "Island in the Sun" and are open to enjoying a well rounded cinematic production, I can easily recommend this classic film to you.