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Sunday, July 10, 2016

Diamond Head (1962)

In 1959 Hawaii, statehood has just been acquired and a land baron (Charlton Heston) is being pushed to run for congress as a Senator. But the homefront becomes a battlefield when his Chinese mistress (France Nuyen) is carrying his child and he objects to his sister (Yvette Mimieux) marrying a native Hawaiian (James Darren) for race reasons. Based on the novel by Peter Gilman, the screenplay makes considerable changes from the novel. In the book, it's Mimieux's father who is running for congress but the film eliminates him and instead merges him into the character of the brother and there's an implied incestuous connection on his part which is quite daring for 1962. Much of the book's political narrative has been toned down too. What remains is an entertaining soap opera, the kind of stuff Hollywood did well before television appropriated the genre with shows like DALLAS and DYNASTY. Indeed, Heston's character can be viewed as JR Ewing, Hawaiian style. The ending seems abrupt as if the film makers suddenly realized they had to end it before it went over the 2 hour mark. Director of photography Sam Leavitt (ANATOMY OF A MURDER) does justice to the islands of Oahu and Kauai (my birthplace) and there's a nice early score by John Williams (billed as Johnny). Directed by Guy Green. With George Chakiris, Aline MacMahon and the underrated Elizabeth Allen (DONOVAN'S REEF).

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