Everyone will be doing Huston's film a favour if they try hard not to compare it with the now classic Malcolm Lowry novel. In fact it captures the doomed spirit of the original, while - rightly - in no way apeing its dense, poetic style. Huston opts for straightforward narrative, telling the story of Geoffrey Firmin, an alcoholic English ex-diplomat who embraces his own destruction in Mexico shortly before the outbreak of World War II. As the limp-wristed observers of this manic process, Andrews and Bisset are at best merely decorative, at worst an embarrassment, and the film's success rests largely on an (often literally) staggering performance from Finney as the dipso diplo. Slurring sentences, sweating like a pig, wobbling on his pins, he conveys a character who is still, somehow, holding on to his sense of love and dignity. Not for the purists, maybe, but the last half-hour, as Firmin plunges ever deeper into his self-created hell, leaves one shell-shocked.
Cast and crew
Ignazio Lopez Tarzo