The Night of the Iguana

The Night of the Iguana (1964)
Warner Home Video
Cast: Richard Burton, Ava Gardner, Deborah Kerr, Sue Lyon
Extras: Featurettes, Teaser, Trailer

A bevy of international actors collide in Mexico in the sparkling new Warner Home Video DVD transfer of John Huston's 1964 "The Night Of The Iguana".

Richard Burton stars as Reverend Dr. T. Lawrence Shannon. Nice title. Shannon is actually a de-frocked minister, now turned to bus tour-guide. The movie opens with Shannon leading a group of female teachers through lower Mexico. They are joined by an under-age sexpot (Sue Lyon), the middle-aged owner of a Mexican hotel (Ava Gardner), and a painter (Deborah Kerr). Based on Tennessee Williams' play, the talky drama leads to moral and mental turmoil, all staged and filmed completely on location.
TV-actress Grayson Hall has a pivotal role as a laconic spinster. "The Night of the Iguana" is perhaps the last quality work of Ava Gardner. She seems to play herself here; a barefoot near-hedonist. Some call it her last good film.

Warner Home Video has done it again. The "Night of the Iguana" DVD is a sharp, enhanced, black-and-white release of Gabriel Figueroa's generally outstanding cinematography. This DVD is a one-disc release, but can also be found as part of Warner's five-film, seven-disc Tennessee Williams collection.

"The Night of the Iguana" DVD is reportedly the best in the boxset. Detail is very sharp with strong grey-tones. The image is tight to the frame edges, anamorphic, and with the original 1.78 ratio.

Audio tracks are provided in English and French, and subtitles are in English, Spanish, and French. Audio is in the original mono only.

The extras are good, with a teaser, a trailer, and two featurettes. The first is a short subject titled "On the Trail of the Iguana", and includes many behind-the-scenes full-color shots of director John Huston. The archival color footage is superb (looks like 35mm), and was all shot during actual production on location in Mexico. It includes juicy shots of Burton's girlfriend, Elizabeth Taylor, who flies to Mexico with him. She was still married to Eddie Fisher at the time. The attendant publicity of this famous pair was no-doubt encouraged by the film-makers, MGM and Seven Arts Productions.

The second featurette is newly produced by Turner in 2006 and is called "Night of the Iguana: Huston's Gamble". Again there are scenes of Taylor and her entourage, right there on the set. The documentary explores production details and Huston's masterful handling of a potentially explosive situation. To keep-the-peace, Huston is shown giving each major cast-member a gift: a gold-plated derringer and bullets with the names of all five co-stars engraved on them. This was believed to help defuse tension.

Overall, this a technically superb release. This movie put sleepy, quiet Puerta Vallarta, Mexico on the map – it is a bustling, huge resort city today – as before the movie it had no scheduled air-service of any kind.