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    Donovan’s Reef [13]

    Movie Reviews
    This movie has the distinction of being the first selection of my parents to watch in their brand new VHS VCR. In 1982, the local TV store carried both VHS and Betamax VCRs. The store carried Videocassette titles in Beta and VHS format. The clincher to purchase was that the store had every Betamax title in VHS, plus some that were VHS only. It was clear to the average consumer that the Betamax was losing ground against VHS.

    Donovan’s Reef is a very lush and scenic picture. It had John Wayne starring and John Ford directing. The titular location is actually a saloon on a South Pacific island owned by ‘Guns’ Donovan (John Wayne). On his birthday we find him fishing with the natives. He gets a birthday surprise of sorts. ‘Boats’ Gilhooley (Lee Marvin) jumps (literally) ship in site of the island in time to get into a birthday brawl with Guns. What a pity so much beer was spilled and wasted in this movie! Only the island physician, Dr. Dedham (Jack Warden), can keep these two numbskulls in line.

    The premise of the movie is that Dr. Dedham has an estranged daughter back in Boston in charge of the Dedham shipping company. Dr. Dedham will inherit a large amount of company stock unless the daughter Amelia (Elizabeth Allen) can prove that he is not of “sound moral character” as specified in the Boston-drafted will. Dr. Dedham had married the island princess and had three children by her. The princess then died in childbirth. One might then figure that he will be found to be immoral by having an islander wife. Of course, Amelia is as frigid and snooty as can be. So her character has to advance by seeing the beauty and goodness around her. One of her lines is her remarking in disbelief how war could come to such a beautiful place. Maybe she needs to read James Michener’s Tales of The South Pacific and Hawaii novels.

    The children are cute and adorable. One memorable scene comes where they are practicing their singing lessons with ‘Frere Jacques’. The padre disappears for a moment. The younger sibling says “Hit It!”. Then the oldest daughter goes into a cool school jazz riff version of the tune. The younger kids start dancing away.

    * SPOILER * Amelia gets turned over and spanked in a domineering fashion at the end of this movie. McLintock! is another John Wayne movie, where the Duke spanks his estranged wife and she seems to need it and want it. Maureen O’Hara gets it squarely on the behind.

    John Wayne sings the entire ditty of "The Monkeys have no tails in Pango-Wanga" in "They Were Expendable".

    There were a lot of slow moments in this movie. Some belonged, like the peeks into native life (the Christmas pageant.) The Aussie fight in the saloon was totally gratuitous. I left feeling disappointed. Despite the scenery and reasonable plot, the movie did not totally work. It seemed like more of a fun outing for Ford and Wayne. Lee Marvin was great. You could feel him using a little methodology left over from “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.” (Hey Duke, you shot me dead! Take that!) Also, if you have ever seen the tourist hula shows in Hawaii, the native scenes might just seem like more of the same. At the time, color movies of the South seas were not common. So this would have been all new material. I can just imagine some drunk in Wakiki in 1964 slurring "Do the Stick Dance!"

    Rent this from the library or on a freebie if you want to complete your John Wayne/John Ford list. {BB}

    Added: April 10th 2005
    Reviewer: BB
    29 Point Scale Score: 13    [13]

    Related Link (IMDB): IMDB
    Hits: 1983
    Language: english


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