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Hawaii is director George Roy Hill’s ( Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid , The Sting ) big screen adaptation of Pulitzer Prize-winning author James A. Michener’s novel of the same name, an epic tale of passion and peril set in a tropical paradise. Max Von Sydow ( The Exorcist ) and Julie Andrews ( Mary Poppins ) are the Reverend Abner Hale and his wife Jerusha, missionaries who travel to Hawaii to convert the natives to Christianity, only to find that they’ve instead brought destruction.
Hawaii was nominated for seven Academy Awards® including Actress in a Supporting Role, Cinematography (Color), Costume Design (Color), Special Visual Effects, Music (Original Musical Score), Music (Song) and Sound. Richard Harris ( Camelot ), Gene Hackman ( Bonnie and Clyde ) and Carroll O’Connor (TV’s All in the Family ) appear in supporting roles.
- Package Dimensions : 17.3 x 13.49 x 1.4 cm; 68 Grams
- Manufacturer reference : SP504
- Director : George Roy Hill
- Media Format : Subtitled
- Release date : 14 December 2021
- Actors : Julie Andrews, Max von Sydow, Richard Harris, Gene Hackman
- Studio : Sandpiper Pictures
- ASIN : B09M1HSMYP
- Number of discs : 1
- Best Sellers Rank: 130,879 in Home (See Top 100 in Home)
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The cinema in the 60s is famous amongst other for spectacular super productions, very long sagas made with generous budgets and prestigious castings, betting on becoming a phenomenon to bring profit. There were some such films earlier, like "Gone with the wind" and "Ten commandments", but not many. It was only in the 60s that they appeared in large numbers, following the sensational success of "Ben Hur" in 1959 and to a lesser extent that of "Spartacus" in 1960.
Following those two precursors appeared "El Cid", "The longest day", "Cleopatra", "The fall of the Roman Empire", "Lawrence of Arabia", "Docteur Zhivago", "The sound of music", "How the West was won", "The sand pebbles", "The Dirty Dozen", "Patton", "My Fair Lady", "The greatest story ever told", "The Bible: in the beginning", "The guns of Navarone" - and also, last but definitely not least, "Hawaii".
Released in 1966 "Hawaii" was a great success - it ended n°2 at box office in USA this year, just behind "The Bible: in the beginning" and beating films like "Who's afraid of Virginia Woolf?", "Sand pebbles" and "A man for all seasons".
As other super productions from the 60s "Hawaii" was a long film - it lasted 189 minutes! Sadly, for reasons which I don't understand fully, all DVD releases available are, at 162 minutes, seriously edited, with many important scenes cut off. But even in its edited form this film is still EXCELLENT and IMPRESSIVE!
"Hawaii" is the adaptation of just one chapter from the novel "Hawaii" by the great specialist of historic mega novels, James Michener. The book, written in 1959, was itself a bestseller and the expectations of the public for the big screen adaptation were high. The producers and the director did their best to not disappoint them. At 15 million dollars the budget was, for this time, very generous. The screenplay was written by the renowned, although controversial, Dalton Trumbo - for the music, Elmer Bernstein himself was hired.
The greatest star appearing in this film is of course Julie Andrews, who after "Mary Poppins" and "The sound of music" was in this time the most popular (and the most expensive) Hollywood actress. To play Reverend Abner Hale, the main male character, Swedish actor Max von Sydow was chosen - and although he was definitely not one of major stars in Hollywood, it is clear from the beginning that he was simply BORN to play this role (see below).
This film was THE BIG BREAK for Richard Harris who was immediately after offered the role of King Arthur in "Camelot", and even more for Gene Hackman, for whom it was only the third role ever - next year he played in no less than five films, including "Bonnie and Clyde"...
"Hawaii" tells the story of American Calvinist missionaries arrival and work in Hawaii islands, beginning in 1819, until their death or recall home. Only married men are accepted as missionaries, therefore all of them bring also their wives with them - even if the voyage on board of relatively small sail ship is a horrible ordeal (it is necessary to sail around Cape Horn). Amongst those missionaries there is one doctor, John Whipple (Gene Hackman) and especially one particularly fervent preacher, Reverend Abner Hale (Max von Sydow). Richard Harris appears later in the film, as Rafer Hoxworth, the captain of a whaling ship. Nothing more will be said about his role.
Reverend Hale was never very much inclined towards marriage or even woman company, but had to marry in order to become a missionary. The girl he married, former Jerusha Bromley (Julie Andrews), accepted him partly by resignation and partly by convenience, not because she loves him - indeed it is rather hard to imagine any woman falling in love with Reverend Hale, even if he is not half bad looking...
Reverend Hale and his wife are central characters and in fact "Hawaii" is in large part the story of their long but uneasy marriage, even if of course there is A LOT of other things in this film. I will say no more here about this aspect of the movie. Wise and beautiful Jerusha Hale is a character very easy to like and it is understandable why even her husband ultimately falls in love with her. As for the Reverend Abner Hale himself - well, that is a whole different enchilada...
The greatness of this film resides in fact in the extraordinary complexity of this very peculiar and controversial character. There is no question that the fundamental characteristics of Abner Hale are his aggressive fanaticism, enormous pride and an ever boiling unlimited supply of indignation, anger and holy rage. This is a man so completely and sincerely devoted to study the Bible and so utterly committed to what he considers his holy mission that he is really ashamed when he realises that he has human feelings - and he actually considers them as a WEAKNESS! He also is deeply racist, as were most of white people in XIX century and even if he is sincerely fond of native Hawaiians, he nevertheless considers them intrinsically inferior to the whites. This guy is in fact so insufferable, that all during this long film I felt on a regular basis a strong need to go and hit him on the head with his Bible and then feed him to my chipmunks...
And yet he also has many qualities. The man is completely sincere - he believes what he says and he says what he believes. He attaches no importance to material possessions and is completely honest. Notwithstanding his prejudices, he actually REALLY tries to help the Hawaiians not only by converting them but also by defending them - with no small courage - against the land grabbing colons and abusive sailors. In many of the fights he wages aggressively from the beginning against some local customs, he is simply DARN RIGHT! And finally, one cannot refuse him courage and a complete disregard for his own safety - a fanatic he definitely is, but a really courageous one, never backing away from a fight he considers just, no matter how bad the odds against him.
In a lesser film - and especially a more modern one, considering how much Hollywood hates Christianity - this character would be made into the main villain of the film. Here however things are much, much more complicated - and towards the second half of the film the story actually is more and more about the fight for Reverend Hale's soul, between his very dark passenger and his more luminous side.
OK, sorry, MAJOR SPOILER here. The last scene of this film completes this long epic in a way so perfect and beautiful, that I really had tears in my eyes. Because in this scene Reverend Hale receives for the first time in his life a direct message from God. A message in which Lord tells him that notwithstanding all his terrible sins and errors, and all the disastrous defeats and losses he suffered, his works were NOT for naught. A message which tells him also that even if he greatly saddened and horribly insulted the Almighty by some things in his life, by many others, some of which he doesn't even remember well any more, he saved himself - and therefore God doesn't reject him. BUT to correctly understand and appreciate this wonderful ending you HAVE TO watch the whole film with great attention to the details!
There are also many other treasures in this film, including an absolutely hilarious discussion about the 23 kinds of adultery the native Hawaiians distinguished, but you will have to discover them yourself.
Bottom line, this is a WONDERFUL, beautiful, complex and intelligent film, to buy and watch ABSOLUTELY! Enjoy!
How disappointing that one waits 15 years for the first official dvd release and it the short version of this epic drama.
Badly edited and missing integral scenes since its original 1966 Release . The original version ran for 189 minutes and was more complete and flowed better.
The film itself is good but could have been very good . It's beautifully filmed , evocative of the period and with an excellent central performance by 'Max Von Sydow' in one of his first international english speaking roles.
I felt that 'Julie Andrews' , however , was somewhat miscast in a sombre dramatic role.
Richard Harris plays , well....Richard Harris really , as a rowdy and bitter Sea Boat Captain.
The supporting cast includes 'Carroll O'Connor' and a young 'Gene Hackman'.
Overall it's a good watch but the full version would have garnished it an extra star.