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Paramount Studios presents
Islands in the Stream (1977)

"I love the sea and would not be anywhere else. She's my home, my religion."
- Thomas Hudson (George C. Scott)

Review By: Matt Peterson   
Published: March 30, 2005

Stars: George C. Scott
Other Stars: David Hemmings, Gilbert Roland, Claire Bloom, Hart Bochner, Michael-James Wixted, Brad Savage
Director: Franklin J. Schaffner

MPAA Rating: PG for some language, violence
Run Time: 01h:44m:40s
Release Date: March 29, 2005
UPC: 097360878240
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

Thomas (George C. Scott) is a man who has yet to discover life's finest treasures. An artist living in solitude on an island near Cuba, he makes his living selling metal sculptures and fishing. He is an outcast of sorts, the result of two failed marriages and an implied rejection of metropolitan society. He is trying to find a small measure of peace among the surf and sun of the Gulf stream, but something is lacking. When his three children pay him a visit, an event long overdue, the clouds begin to clear.

Tom (Hart Bochner), Davy (Michael-James Wixted) and Andy (Brad Savage) have different reactions to their estranged father. Tom, the eldest and half-brother to Davy and Andy, is clearly the most mature, greeting the elder Thomas like an adult. He has recently graduated from high school, and is looking for the next step. Andy is the youngest and the most naïve; he is immediately happy to see his father, and throws himself at him without restraint. Davy, however, is troubled. He is just old enough to know why his parents separated, and his heart is full of resentment. Dubbing his father a "bastard," it will take time for a connection to be forged.

So begins the expected acclimation. Swimming and fishing expeditions with Thomas' shipmate, the rummy Brit Eddy (David Hemmings), fill the summer hours, and bonding occurs. Even a smidge of adventure crops up in the form of a shark attack, culminating in a shootout clearly inspired by the popularity of Jaws (in fact, much of the film has a similar feel to that blockbuster, no doubt by design). When the boys depart, it is a bittersweet moment; Thomas has regained the pleasures of parenthood, though his comfort still seems to lie in the discomforts of solitude.

WWII is just breaking out, and the distant sounds of U-boat attacks grow more frequent. The island seems far away from the action, but the occasional washed up sailor and the trickle of European refugees does not let anyone forget that blood is being spilled. When Thomas' estranged wife appears, Thomas reevaluates his life, and his connection with his children. However, an unexpected journey into the heart of Cuba threatens his future, and brings the war into sharp focus.

Based on the final novel by Ernest Hemingway, Islands in the Stream is helmed by the same stellar team that brought the classic Patton to the screen. Director Franklin J. Schaffner has reteamed with George C. Scott, with less successful results. Boasting fine cinematography and a very '70s score by vet Jerry Goldsmith, Islands looks great (despite a few rough VFX shots), but lacks the emotional punch one would expect. The WWII period adds some gravity, and the island locale provides a fresh perspective on the conflict, but the flow remains clunky. It is notoriously difficult to translate the literary strains of solitude to the screen; screenwriter Denne Bart Petitclerc does what he can.

Frankly, without the stellar performance of George C. Scott, this film would be quite forgettable. His portrayal of the flawed Thomas is a complete portrait, spanning the spectrum of emotions with subtlety and skill. This is a complicated man, more at home with a bottle and an empty house than with his own progeny, around which his prowess falls short. Unfortunately, the actors surrounding him, save for the notable David Hemmings as Eddy, cheapen the picture. They try, no doubt, but no one here is especially convincing. At times, the film hits the mark beautifully, but some hammy moments muddle its delicacies.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Paramount's anamorphic 2.35:1 transfer is quite mixed. Colors are bold, but fleshtones are a bit too red. Grain can be quite heavy, and the image tends to look soft. Still, some shots have drastically improved clarity with minimal noise and good detail. Considering the age, it remains passable.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglish, Frenchno

Audio Transfer Review: The English mono features clear dialogue and good musical presence, though the constant sounds of the ocean make it hard to evaluate hiss.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 14 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: No extras are included.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

Considered one of the better adaptations of Hemingway, Islands in the Stream capitalizes on its tropical setting, but lacks in emotional impact. George C. Scott delivers a fine performance, preventing this from drifting out to sea. Paramount's disc is mediocre.


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