A grotesquely disfigured harpooner called Iguana is severely mistreated by his fellow sailors on a whaling ship in the 19th century. One night he escapes and takes up residence on a remote island. He makes himself ruler of the island and declares war on mankind. Anyone unfortunate enough to wind up on the island with Iguana is subjected to his cruel tyranny.
You might be unfamiliar with the name Monte Hellman. Monte is a film director and producer, mostly known for his excellent film 'Two-Lane Blacktop', which is in the Criterion Collection. He also made 'Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 3', was a producer on Quentin Tarantino's 'Reservoir Dogs', and directed some of the big action scenes in the original 'Robocop' film, which was right before he made this interesting film called 'Iguana'.
Based on an actual guy, who inspired a Spanish novel, that was then adapted into this film, 'Iguana' tells the tale of a man who has been treated poorly his whole life because of his ailment, but then enters a position of power where he uses this power to torture, kill, and rape anyone who comes in his path. The film follows a man named named Iguana Oberlus (Everett McGill), who works on a 19th century whale boat. The crew and captain all make fun of him and treat him like dirt because half of his face is covered in reptile like scales.
His whole life, he has been ridiculed and beaten because of his looks. When some men on the boat try to attack him, he jumps ship and swims to a nearby island. One on the island, he declares himself king of the island and anyone who comes into his path, rather it be people lost at sea, or a woman named Carmen (Maru Valdivielso). Oberlus is not a kind man. In fact he believes that since he has been harassed and beaten through his whole life, this is his revenge on all humankind for the horrors that he has endured. He forces his prisoners to do manual labor as he has a weapon by his side at all times in case people get out of line.
In that case they are maimed, tortured, and even killed. When Carmen comes along, he rapes her consistently. Iguana treats his prisoners with some sort of decency, but has no mercy or remorse if anyone gets out of line. It seems like Oberlus always wanted a chance to succeed and be liked, but that was never afforded to him, so he is taking out his hate and vengeance on innocent people he comes in contact with, because on this island, he feels that he is the all powerful one. And just like an all powerful one, he can giveth and he can taketh away. And that's just what Oberlus does.
Make no mistake about it, Iguana is a monster. Whatever kindness and true human soul is long gone from him, but there are flashes of a gentle person deep inside him somewhere. What the film 'Iguana' suffers from is in its story telling and acting. The movie is to overly melodramatic and relies on telling things in an introspective manner rather than a literal one. It gets a little tedious and slow for what it could have been. The characters are also very one note here as well, always showing all their cards from the get-go, which hinders the suspense of the film. 'Iguana' has a good premise, but the execution doesn't stick the landing.
'Iguana' comes with a 1080p HD transfer apresented in 1.78:1 aspect ratio. For being a 27-year old film, this image is still mostly intact. And while this is no Criterion restoration job, it gets the job done nicely. I think with these type of films, you're going to want a certain level of video quality, meaning not the best digital presentation that is reserved for the big $100 million blockbusters, but instead a type of grindhouse feel. And that's more or less what you get here. That being said, this looks far better than a grindhouse release.
Detail is rather soft most of the time with a nice layer of grain, giving the picture that natural filmic look. Closeups reveal better detail in the actor's faces, especially with the makeup effects. Colors look good here and well saturated, however, i wouldn't expect anything to pop off screen. Skin tones are natural and black levels are not always inky, and have some crush problems consistently. There are some issues with dirt, debris, and some aliasing throughout, but it goes with the type of film it is.
This release comes with a lossless DTS-HD 2.0 stereo mix and it has all sorts of issues. The sound as a whole fluctuates from loud shrills to soft spoken dialogue, and everything else in between. The biggest part of this audio mix are the ambient noises, whether it be the sounds coming from ocean or island, or inside a cave. It is all very loud and at some points shrieking.
Dialogue is on the low side, where at certain moments you'll miss whatever is being said, particularly when the ambient sounds are striking though. When you can hear the dialogue, it is clear most of the time, but again, it's difficult to make out what they're saying. Sound effects are also loud, but unrealistic. The score comes through nicely though. This isn't exactly the most pleasant of audio mixes.
Interview With Monte Hellman (HD, 21 Mins.) - Director Monte Hellman gets straight to the point and discusses making 'Iguana'. He talks about shooting on location and the hardships of that aspect, casting, the story lines, and why he decided to take on the job. Worth the watch.
Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2 Mins.) - Trailer for the film.
Booklet - 11-page booklet with an interview transcribed with Monte Hellman and Hellman's biography.
'Iguana' could have been a magnificent film, but Hellman missed the mark on a couple of aspects here. The story and the actual location production are great, but it was never executed well, leaving this film with a sour taste at the end. Although Tarantino recommends it (just because Hellman was a producer on 'Reservoir Dogs'), doesn't mean it's a great film. The video and audio presentations are not that great, but the one main extra was worth the watch. If you're curious, give it a rent before purchasing.