(US/Spain/Liechtenstein - 1971)
Directed by Kevin Billington. Written by Tom Rowe and Rachel Billington. Cast: Kirk Douglas, Yul Brynner, Samantha Eggar, Renato Salvatori, Jean-Claude Drouot, Fernando Rey, Massimo Ranieri, Aldo Sambrell, Tito Garcia, Victor Israel, Tony Skios, Luis Barboo, Tony Cyrus, Raul Castro, Maria Borge. (PG, 128 mins)
Kino's new Blu-ray edition of 1971's THE LIGHT AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD was already announced several months before the legendary Kirk Douglas died just before before its release at the age of 103. Unfortunately, it's not one of the iconic actor's better films, but of course, in a storied career as long as his, there will be inevitable ups and downs. LIGHT was made at a time when Douglas found himself in a major slump following a trio of costly big-studio duds with 1968's THE BROTHERHOOD, 1969's THE ARRANGEMENT, and 1970's THERE WAS A CROOKED MAN. His box-office misfortune probably wasn't helped by the youth-driven "New Hollywood" era being ushered in by the likes of BONNIE AND CLYDE, THE GRADUATE, and EASY RIDER, so there was little chance Douglas was going to secure the Hollywood studio funding he needed for THE LIGHT AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD, a passion project that he'd been trying to get off the ground since 1965.
|Kirk Douglas (1916-2020)|
Similar money issues are apparent in much of THE LIGHT AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD, particularly some almost Antonio Margheriti-worthy miniatures and one embarrassing shot where a ship's crew is obviously just tiny, immobile action figures on a model vessel that could very well be floating in the bathtub in Douglas' hotel room. With its mostly European supporting cast (including spaghetti western stalwart Aldo Sambrell and Spanish genre vet Victor Israel) dubbed by numerous familiar voices, and some shocking violence that flirts with grindhouse brutality (surprising, considering that Verne adaptations were typically family-oriented fare), LIGHT frequently resembles a cost-cutting Harry Alan Towers production of the time despite some class brought to the proceedings by Douglas and Yul Brynner, which is probably where a good chunk of the money went. Douglas is Denton, an assistant lighthouse keeper at the southernmost tip of Argentina in 1865. An American Gold Rush prospector on the run from a checkered past and a broken heart, Denton butts heads with head lighthouse operator Capt. Moritz (Fernando Rey, right before his memorable turn as the villain in THE FRENCH CONNECTION), but gets along fine with affable young apprentice Felipe (Massimo Ranieri), who has a cute capuchin monkey sidekick named Mario. Mario is about as kiddie-friendly as LIGHT ever gets, as the monkey, Moritz, and Felipe will soon be murdered by a crew of slobbering pirates led by the sadistic Kongre (Brynner), who takes over the island and has a testy exchange with Denton ("Do I detect an American accent? I used to have dealings with your countrymen during the happy days of the slave trade!" Kongre sneers), as a cat-and-mouse game unfolds between his psycho crew and the sole surviving lighthouse keeper, who escapes and spends the rest of the film running around the island trying to stay out of sight and stay alive.
WHERE IS PARSIFAL?), but make no mistake--this, like SPARTACUS, is Kirk's baby all the way. But it's not 1960, it's not a mega-budget Hollywood epic, and Kevin Billington is not Stanley Kubrick. The pacing issues improve somewhat at the midpoint when a ship en route from San Francisco to England wrecks and Kongre's men slaughter all of the survivors except Montefiore (Renato Salvatori), who's rescued by Denton, and high society matron Arabella (Samantha Eggar), who is held prisoner by Kongre for obvious assumed reasons.
ANNA AND THE KING, an ill-advised period sitcom that was canceled mid-season, with Brynner reprising his Oscar-winning role from the 1956 film. Kino's LIGHT AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD Blu-ray (because physical media is dead) is the uncut--and entirely too long--128-minute European version, still sporting a PG rating on the packaging but with all of the hard-R violence intact.
THE LIGHT AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD
opening in Toledo, OH on 8/25/1971