Film Review: Donovan’s Reef (1963)

Release Date: June 12th, 1963 (Philadelphia premiere)
Directed by: John Ford
Written by: James Edward Grant, Frank S. Nugent
Music by: Cyril Mockridge
Cast: John Wayne, Lee Marvin, Jack Warden, Elizabeth Allen, Jacqueline Malouf, Cesar Romero, Dorothy Lamour, Mike Mazurki, Patrick Wayne, Dick Foran

Paramount Pictures, 109 Minutes


“Well, there is our Mike Donovan. Three children and not one marriage. Oh, I do not say that he’s the first man to put the cart before the horse, but three carts and no horse? Huh?” – Marquis Andre de Lage

John Ford and John Wayne made a lot of really good movies together. Some of them had Lee Marvin in them too. Well, this is one of them but sadly, it is the last of them.

This also has Jack Warden and Cesar Romero in it too though, as well as Elizabeth Allen, Dorothy Lamour, Mike Mazurki, Patrick Wayne and Dick Foran. Plus, it is shot in beautiful and luscious Hawaii at the height of the Tiki subculture’s popularity in America.

Donovan’s Reef is a really good and lighthearted movie. It’s a lot more playful than what Ford and Wayne collaborations typically were. Sure, they’d have some tiny comedic moments but this is really a straight up romantic comedy that just so happens to have a male lead with real gravitas.

The thing is, I love seeing Wayne be funny and playful and kind of hamming it up. He doesn’t lose his machismo and if anything, it’s that machismo that makes his lighter roles work so well. For instance, Rooster Cogburn isn’t remotely close to the quality of its predecessor True Grit but Wayne is so damn good in it, playing opposite of Katharine Hepburn in an “odd couple” sort of situation. This is like that in the way that Wayne isn’t afraid to step outside of being the quintessential badass of his era.

I also love Lee Marvin’s character in this and the rest of the cast is damn good too. Cesar Romero was friggin’ delightful. And the young Jacqueline Malouf was perfect and sweet in her role. I truly enjoyed Elizabeth Allen’s role in this though, as she was the perfect pairing for Wayne’s wit and for the romantic stuff. She was the typical “rich white lady thrown into an exotic culture” archetype but she evolved beyond that and gave the role a lot of personality.

This is a beautiful film to look at. Hawaii is majestic and it is on full display in this movie.

Donovan’s Reef was actually much better than I thought it would be and I’m glad I checked it out. It’s definitely something I’ll probably revisit many times in the future.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: Other Ford and Wayne collaborations. For the Tiki aesthetic, The Road to Bali which also features Dorothy Lamour. Also, Diamond Head, which was also filmed in Hawaii and features Elizabeth Allen.

Film Review: Lost Continent (1951)

Release Date: August 17th, 1951
Directed by: Sam Newfield
Written by: Orville H. Hampton, Richard H. Landau, Carroll Young
Music by: Paul Dunlap
Cast: Cesar Romero, Hillary Brooke, Chick Chandler, Sid Melton, Hugh Beaumont, John Hoyt

Lippert Pictures Inc., 83 Minutes


“Look at the size of that footprint! I’ve never seen anything like it before!” – Nolan, “I have. Once… in a museum.” – Phillips

Lost Continent has the benefit of being watchable, thanks to being featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000. It also has Cesar Romero in it but even the future Joker couldn’t pull this schlock out of the prehistoric muck.

It features a boring tale that finds some dudes in a world ruled by dinosaurs. It’s not all that original and has actually been a tale told dozens of times, even by 1951. It’s like King Kong without King Kong and less talent behind the production.

The dinosaurs look awful and sound more like elephants than ferocious giant reptiles. The effects, in general, are pretty terrible even for 1951 standards.

This is the type of film that could have had a decent story and kept you engaged with some solid hokiness but it fails to do that. I feel bad that Cesar Romero was subjected to this cookie cutter shit festival but he did some pretty bad movies in his day. But for a guy so suave and debonair, he probably deserved a better movie than this. Although, I guess actors need to work, even if that work is acting alongside some kid’s plastic bath toys.

I don’t hate Lost Continent and it is okay enough to get through with MST3K ribbing but there are much better ways that one can spend their time. You could start a new fad diet, learn how to tie some trick knots or hell… you could try Velcroing yourself to the side of a train. All would be better uses of your time.

All things considered, this needs to be run through the trusty Cinespiria Shitometer. The results read, “Type 4 Stool: Like a sausage or snake, smooth and soft.”

Rating: 2/10
Pairs well with: Not much but I guess other big dino movies of the time.

Film Review: Captain From Castile (1947)

Release Date: December 25th, 1947
Directed by: Henry King
Written by: Lamar Trotti
Based on: Captain From Castile by Samuel Shellabarger
Music by: Alfred Newman
Cast: Tyrone Power, Jean Peters, Cesar Romero

Twentieth Century Fox, 141 Minutes


I have Captain From Castile listed as a swashbuckling film. The main reason, is because it stars swashbuckling bad ass Tyrone Power. Also, it features lots of swords and people traveling by ship. It is a picture on the verge of swashbuckling greatness but falls short and never really gives you what you’re looking for in that regard.

That doesn’t mean it is a bad film. It is actually a good historical adventure.

The story sees Power’s Pedro de Vargas help an Aztec slave escape his cruel master. He finds himself in trouble and must flee the Inquisition. He later rescues Jean Peter’s Catana Perez. Then he meets an adventurer and they are then swept away to the New World, Mexico to be exact. The film then revolves around the invasion of Mexico by Cortez.

It is a fairly long movie at 141 minutes but it probably could’ve been edited down significantly. There are a lot of sections of the film that drag on too long or where it seems like not enough is happening. The better sequences make up for that though,

Tyrone Power is typical Tyrone Power. Although, he has less to do, not being able to fence his way through baddies and all. It also stars the always enjoyable Cesar Romero and introduces us to the talents of Jean Peters.

The film was directed by the accomplished Henry King, known for Twelve O’Clock High The Snows of KilimanjaroThe Song of BernadetteCarouselLove is a Many-Splendored ThingThe Gunfighter and Jesse James – just to name some of his dozens of movies.

The trailers for the film are in black and white but the movie itself is actually in vibrant Technicolor. The visuals are mesmerizing and the film has a certain feeling of realism, as it was filmed on location in Mexico – utilizing authentic active volcanoes and shooting around real lava beds. The volcanic ash actually created issues on set but the film still turned out to be visually stunning. The filmmakers were ambitious but accomplished what they set out to do from a visual perspective.

The biggest negative of the film is how it ends. It doesn’t really have a proper conclusion, it just sort of stops in what feels like the middle of the story. Almost as if this was the first part of a trilogy that was never completed. The picture only covers the first half of the novel it is based on. This issue, mixed with how long it was and how some scenes could have been cut or edited down, makes the movie feel like a long pilot for a television show that was never picked up and left dangling story-wise.

I do like the film, it just needed more refinement from a narrative standpoint. Tyrone Power never disappoints and he certainly didn’t in Captain From Castile.

Rating: 7.5/10