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Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Hawaiians (1970)

Set in the mid to late 1800s, a sea captain (Charlton Heston) finds himself cut out of his grandfather's will and the family fortune left to his brother in law (Alec McCowen). All he receives is a "worthless" parcel of land but from that land, he begins to build his empire. At the same time, a Chinese immigrant and indentured servant (Tina Chen, 3 DAYS OF THE CONDOR) has ambitions of her own. James Michener's best selling but massive near 1,000 page novel HAWAII was impossible to be made into just one film. Today, it would probably have been a TV mini series. But the third chapter of the book (the arrival of the missionaries) was filmed in 1966 under the book's title and this film covers the fourth chapter as well as part of the fifth. It's simply not as good as the 1966 film. Unlike the first film (which had a longer running time), THE HAWAIIANS attempts to cram too much into one film. The Heston story line and the Chen story line compete with each other rather than complementing each other so both suffer. The director Tom Gries (WILL PENNY) does a serviceable job and elicits several strong performances from his cast including Heston and Chen (who ages from a young girl to an old woman). Unfortunately, poor Geraldine Chaplin is saddled with an underdeveloped role as Heston's partly Polynesian wife who goes nuts. There's a wonderful score by Henry Mancini and Bill Thomas's costume design fetched the film's only Oscar nomination. With John Phillip Law, Mako, Lyle Bettger, Naomi Stevens, James Gregory, Harry Townes, James Hong, Chris Robinson and Mary Munday.

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