|Kirk Douglas as the embittered, withdrawn hero, William Denton.|
Last night, I made a spontaneous decision to go back and check out LIGHT AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD, an early (1971) Alexander and Ilya Salkind production made in concert with Kirk Douglas' company Bryna Productions. It's based on Jules Verne's THE LIGHTHOUSE AT THE END OF THE WORLD, one of Verne's last novels, one of his few to be written in the 20th century, when he was recovering from an attempt on his life by a family member and in his most cynical and disillusioned state of mind. To find Verne's name emblazoned on the advertising for any post-1960s film is usually shorthand for cheesy family entertainment - but, suffice to say, LIGHT is anything but.
If anything, it's a counterpart to the savage streak found in other contemporary releases, ranging from Cy Endfield's SANDS OF THE KALAHARI (1965) and Elliot Silverstein's A MAN CALLED HORSE (1970) to Sam Peckinpah's STRAW DOGS (1971), while also anticipating the even greater extremes of Umberto Lenzi's THE MAN FROM DEEP RIVER (1972) and other Italian adventure films to follow. To condense a gratifyingly intense and complex response, it was nothing like what I expected.
The film opens very slowly - indeed, I would have to say it feels juvenile and borderline asinine for its first 10-15 minutes, with that stale sense of remove one feels with some cheaply post-produced international co-productions. I was actually on the point of reconsidering my decision to watch when the film suddenly bit down hard, refusing to let up for the remainder of the sometimes hallucinatory, often harrowing adventure.
|Douglas (and monkey companion Mario) sights unwelcome visitors.|
|Douglas makes the acquaintance of his island captor.|
|Yul Brynner with Samantha Eggar.|
|Original US half-sheet.|
In related news, please be aware that Walt Disney has finally just issued their classic 1954 film of Verne's 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA, starring Kirk Douglas, on Blu-ray. Though it's Disney Movie Club exclusive, it is also available from various eBay sellers for those with aversions to membership.
(c) 2019 by Tim Lucas. All rights reserved.