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Under the Volcano (The Criterion Collection)

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Product Description

Under the Volcano follows the final day in the life of self-destructive British consul Geoffrey Firmin (Albert Finney, in an Oscar-nominated tour de force) on the eve of World War II. Withering from alcoholism, Firmin stumbles through a small Mexican village amidst the Day of the Dead fiesta, attempting to reconnect with his estranged wife (Jacqueline Bisset) but only further alienating himself. John Huston's ambitious tackling of Malcolm Lowry's towering "unadaptable" novel gave the incomparable Finney one of his grandest roles and was the legendary The Treasure of the Sierra Madre director's triumphant return to filmmaking in Mexico.

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The Criterion Collection release of Under The Volcano reaffirms director John Huston's affinity for tragedies starring outcasts and wayward souls (see also The Misfits and Night of the Iguana). Adapted from Malcolm Lowry's novel set in Cuernavaca, Mexico, 1938, on the eve of WW II, Under The Volcano recounts the tragic life of British Consul Geoffrey Firmin's (Albert Finney) final struggles with alcoholism during Day of the Dead, as his estranged wife, Yvonne (Jaqueline Bisset) returns from New York to patch up their marriage and to encourage his sobering up. From the opening scene, Firmin is relentlessly drunk, mumbling Shakespearean-like rants with a dark sense of humor about the horrors of war and the perils of love. Finney's stunning performance recalls the best of Richard Burton (Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?), who was originally offered the role. Fortunately for the viewer, Finney was cast, as his compellingly dour portrayal of Firmin is undeniably masterful. Set in bars, restaurants, and amongst the plaza's Dia de los Muertos festivities featuring devils and skeletons alongside garlands and balloons, Under The Volcano's visual splendor underscores the decadence of Finney's drinking habit. There is not a single shot missing a bottle of liquor, and as Finney's health deteriorates the weather in the film subtly mimics his psychological state. The film is as wondrous as it is devastating. Included as extras on this DVD are the Richard Burton-narrated "Volcano: An Inquiry into the Life of Malcolm Lowry," a captivating documentary about the author's life, and an hour-long documentary about the making of the film. --Trinie Dalton

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Product Details

  • Actors: Albert Finney, Jacqueline Bisset, Anthony Andrews, Ignacio López Tarso, Katy Jurado
  • Directors: John Huston
  • Writers: Guy Gallo, Malcolm Lowry
  • Producers: Arnold Gefsky, Héctor López, Michael Fitzgerald, Moritz Borman, Wieland Schulz-Keil
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: Criterion Collection
  • DVD Release Date: October 23, 2007
  • Run Time: 112 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000TXNDVQ
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #79,840 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Under the Volcano (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

44 of 47 people found the following review helpful By Grigory's Girl on October 20, 2007
Format: DVD
I saw this film a while back, and while I liked it, but it never really sent me, despite all the critical acclaim. Years later, I read the book, and the book is light years better than the film. I usually say the opposite, but Lowry's prose is amazing to behold, and this film is a rather straightforward rendering of the novel, which diminishes its power. I would have preferred a more hallucinatory quality to the film, similar to that of the novel. I commend John Huston for tackling such a daunting project. Albert Finney's performance is superb. The film isn't horrible, and it should be seen at least once. The feature, though, just doesn't have what the novel had, which is a shame.

One of the great things about this new Criterion edition is that it contains a rare, rare Canadian documentary called Volcano: An Inquiry into the Life of Malcolm Lowry. This documentary was briefly on VHS, then disappeared for a very long time. I bought it in a used VHS sale at my Blockbuster. I asked them why they were selling it, and they said "it had only been rented once in 2 years" (guess who was the sole renter). It was made at a time where documentaries were very rarely made (and getting them released was even more difficult). It is a remarkable film chronicling one of the most self destructive authors/artists you will ever likely encounter. Many of the images from the film were shot in Mexico during the Day of the Dead celebration, giving this film a strange, surreal vibe that is very effective. Lowry had spent time in Mexico during this celebration, and it had a major impact on his novel. Lowry was a major alcoholic, completely innudated by booze, beyond repair.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Timothy O. Riley on October 29, 2005
Format: VHS Tape
John Huston was 78 when he made Malcolm Lowrey's novel of one man's descent into booze, death and bitterness (south of the border style)into a film.
It is well documented-- Author, Lowrey, tortured himself and then wrote a 400 page-- sad-sack account of a British diplomat drinking himself and his soul into oblivion (just before WWll).

Albert Finney gives one of the most devastating portrayals of an intellectual mind pickled in alcohol-- ever captured on-screen. And, the legendary director, John Huston, shoves our faces in it.
To be sure, it's beauty with a black-heart.
Don't miss it before you die.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By KGustave@webtv.net (Karl Gustave) on September 15, 1999
Format: VHS Tape
This film strikes at the heart with the impact of a Hemingway Novel. The characters get under your skin easily and you find yourself pleading for their release from the demons that haunt them, the demons they have created. Albert Finney gives a superb and command performance. My only question is where is the DVD ??? This is one that belongs in everyones collection.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Andrew Ellington VINE VOICE on May 1, 2009
Format: DVD
I have been a fan of Albert Finney for a long while now, and so I have been chomping at the bit to finally see this movie for which he receives so many raves. I finally got that chance (although it's been about two months or so now since I did see it) and I have to say that I was utterly blown away, not just by Finney but by this film entirely. Sure, this is `The Albert Finney Show' if we're being realistic here, but his performances is only one part (the biggest part, sure) of a well constructed and brutally honest portrait of human suffering. John Huston, one of the most successful directors of all time, crafts a beautifully tragic look at one man's illness and the dire effect it had on himself and those around him.

`Under the Volcano' will crawl under your skin.

Taking place in Cuernavaca, Mexico during 1938, `Under the Volcano' exposes a day in the life of British Consul Geoffrey Firmin. Reduced to a slobbering drunk, Firmin wastes away in the beautiful countryside, allowing life to practically waltz right past him. During the Mexican festival `Day of the Dead', Firmin's estranged wife, Yvonne returns to aid in nursing him back to health. Helping is Geoffrey's half brother Hugh. While they try, the task seems almost helpless as Geoffrey's condition worsens and his very life becomes threatened by the disease.

Albert Finney and John Huston work wonders with the material, using their talents to the full to create a masterpiece of modern film. As an actor, Finney chews up every bit of this man; creating a realistic portrait of self destruction. Every movement is perfectly accurate and every word is brilliantly conveyed. He is a fearless actor, as he's proven time and time again, and this is his crowning achievement.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Thivanka Rukshan Perera on January 6, 2012
Format: DVD
John Houston's 'Under the Volcano (1984)' is actually a great introduction to the classic, eponymous book by Malcolm Lowry which was published in 1947. Hence the film's (and the novel's) political context is outdated with its references to the Spanish Civil War and WWII on the horizon (the story is set in Quauhnahuac, Mexico, in the year 1938 on the Day of the Dead).

But its story of a man, Geoffrey Firmin--British Consul--struggling with dipsomania while trying to reconcile with his wife is not just that--it's a universal story, with the addled Consul as Adam and Quauhnahuac as the Garden of Eden (from Biblical Mythology); the Consul's ultimate fall is the Fall of Man itself, his 'eviction' from Quauhnahuac (actually the Aztec name for the city of Cuernavaca) parallels the exile of Adam by God.

These are not overreaching statements however, as in the book--with its countless inter-textual nods (apart from the biblical mythology) to arcane Alchemy, Greek/Roman Mythology and the far-east Philosophy of Hindu Sanskrit Vedas reaching all the way to the "town of Juggernaut in India on the Bay of Bengal" (excerpt from the book's opening paragraph)--it is made clear that the protagonist (Geoffrey Firmin) is symbolic of the spiritual war within each man; and his gradual downfall will affect everyone around him.
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