78 year old (at the time) director John Huston was the seventh and first successful person to option and film Malcolm Lowry’s novel “Under the Volcano”. Huston’s predecessors who unsuccessfully had options on the book included directors Luis Buñuel, Ken Russell, Joseph Losey, Jules Dassin and actor Zachary Scott who had been the first way back in 1957 around ten years after the source book had been first published.
The film garnered composer Alex North his thirteenth and final Academy Award nomination. North never won an Oscar until he was awarded an Honorary statuette a year after this film received two Oscar nominations, one for its score and one for Best Actor – Albert Finney.
Reportedly, director John Huston wanted to make this film for thirty years which during this time Huston read more than twenty adapted screenplays of its source novel.
This film was made and released about 37 years afters its source semi-autobiographical novel by Malcolm Lowry was first published in 1947. The book was often said to have been unadaptable and unfilmable. Still, the novel was adapted to radio by Studio One in 1947. The first draft of the book was written in 1936, the second in 1939, the latter being rejected by four publishers. The third draft was written around 1941 and was rejected by twelve publishers. With a complete revision, a fourth draft was written in 1946 and the novel first published in 1947. Reportedly though, there was a version of the novel written in 1940 and this was first published in 1994 under the slightly different title of “The 1940 Under the Volcano”.
Luis Bunuel had tried to get this set up around 1964-1965 with Laurence Olivier and Jeanne Moreau.
The picture marked a return to filming in Mexico for director John Huston who had previously shot the classic Humphrey Bogart movie The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948) there as well as The Night of the Iguana (1964), cinematographer Gabriel Figueroa having lensed the latter as well as this movie
Director John Huston let his son Danny Huston, then 21 years old and still in London film school, shoot the background scenes in the opening credits which were used for the film in its title sequence.
Two documentaries have been made about the making of this film. They are Observations Under the Volcano (1984) directed by Christian Blackwood and Notes from Under the Volcano (1984) directed by Gary Conklin.
Second movie in a year set in a Latin American country with a central character who was an alcoholic British consul. In this film it was Albert Finney as the dipsomaniac diplomat Geoffrey Firmin, in the other movie, it was Michael Caine as the drunken diplomat Charley Fortnum, in Beyond the Limit (1983).
The “Day of the Dead” (from the Spanish: Día de los Muertos) festival seen in this film is a real life Mexican national holiday where all banks are closed. The public holiday is particularly celebrated throughout Mexico but also in other cultures across the globe. Elegant Skulls or La Calavera Catrinas, used in the Day of the Dead celebrations, which are artistic manifestations of altars and calavera costumes of the Day of the Dead, are vividly portrayed in the film’s opening title sequence.
Seccond of two back to back consecutive pictures directed by John Huston and starring Albert Finney, the first being Annie (1982).
Star Jack Nicholson was sometimes on the set while Under the Volcano (1984) was being filmed. Director John Huston had acted alongside Nicholson in Roman Polanski’s Chinatown (1974) and then later soon directed him the following year in Prizzi’s Honor (1985).
As of 2014, this remains as the only film screenplay written by Guy Gallo.
John Huston never knew Malcolm Lowry, the author of the novel Under the Volcano. However, John Huston said that he read a biography about Malcolm Lowry to which he read some names of people who were friends with him and Malcolm Lowry.
John Huston initially wanted to cast Richard Burton as the British consul. Huston and Burton had had a great success with a previous movie about an alcoholic set in Mexico, The Night of the Iguana (1964). Much to his regret, Burton had to decline the offer, as he was appearing in a touring production of Noël Coward’s “Private Lives” with Elizabeth Taylor.
The film’s director John Huston actually lived in Mexico at an oceanside villa in Puerto Vallarta.
In 1972, director Joseph Losey was planning to film this story in Mexico but the financing fell through. Losey had a litany of many unmade and unproduced projects throughout his long career.
The movie is sometimes revived on a double-bill with Volcano: An Inquiry Into the Life and Death of Malcolm Lowry (1976).
The film’s opening prologue states: “CUERNAVACA, MEXICO. November 1, 1938 – The Day of the Dead”.
Director John Huston’s twenty-one year old son Danny Huston was sometimes on the set of the movie.
Richard Burton was originally offered the role of Geoffrey Firmin but he couldn’t get out of his contract for Private Lives which he was appearing on Broadway at the time with Elizabeth Taylor.]]>
Under the volcano 1984
Under the volcano 1984