In the Island of Manukura, a French colony in the South Seas, the joyful Terangi is a leader among the natives and the first mate of the Katopua, the tall ship of Captain Nagle. Terangi gets married with Marama and sooner he sails to Tahiti. While in a bar playing with other natives, Terangi is offended by an alcoholic racist French and he hits his face, breaking his jaw. Despite the testimony of Captain Nagle, Terangi is sentenced to six months of forced labor since the victim had political connections with the Powers That Be. Captain Nagle asks the Governor Eugene DeLaage to uses his influence to help Terangi, but the governor refuses. Terangi unsuccessfully tries to escape from the prison, and each attempt increases his sentence. Eight years later, he finally escapes and his jailbreak is celebrated in Manukura. Father Paul finds his canoe and brings Terangi to the island. But a devastating hurricane also arrives in the island threatening the dwellers.Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Jon Hall was the nephew of James Norman Hall, co-author of the novel, "The Hurricane," on which the movie was based. Although he had made several previous films using his real name, Charles Locher, the actor officially adopted "Jon Hall" as his professional name for this movie, in order to capitalize on his real-life relationship with the book's co-author. See more »
When Terangi (Jon Hall) returns to Manukura after a 600-mile voyage across open ocean from Tahiti, he looks the same as when he left, except for some mild facial hair on his upper lip and his chin. After a voyage that long with no way to shave, he would have had a full beard. See more »
[as Terangi tries to kiss his hand]
No, no, you owe me no thanks, my son. This is between me and somebody else.
[a heavenly chorus is heard]
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Directed by John Ford with an extraordinary eye for detail and with tremendous sympathy and sensuality, this picture will be a surprise for those who only know the later Ford films that explore the male worlds of military life on the frontier. In those, Ford seems to take the side of authoritarian severity, as if he had come to agree with the Raymond Massey character of THE HURRICANE, for whom human nature can and should be broken on the wheel of law. But in this earlier film you can feel Ford's deep yearning for the freedom and eroticism of a natural life of the body and the senses.
I grew up with THE HURRICANE, which was a staple of TV viewing throughout the '60s and '70s. But seeing it now for the first time in years I am struck by how subversive of convention it must have seemed in the '30s, and how much it was in sync with the cultural and political wars of the late '60s. Terangi, the kind, capable natural man wants merely to live freely and happily, but he is imprisoned and tortured and unwittingly finds himself in opposition to a rule of law that is anti-love, anti-life, anti-human. Every frame of this film sides with Dorothy Lamour and Jon Hall, the gorgeous young lovers, against the hard fanaticism of Massey's governor. Meanwhile the priest, the doctor, the sea captain and the governor's own wife are sensible, kind-hearted (if condescending) humanists who are on the correct side of the debate, but who are helpless in the face of insane obedience to authority.
Yes, the hurricane is marvelously done, impressive and absorbing, and it acts as a very necessary catharsis after the anxiety aroused by the many injustices Terangi must endure. But what seems to matter most to Ford is the idyll of sexy young love, not seen in films since the first two pre-code TARZAN pictures from MGM. Once married, the couple are stripped of their western clothes by their friends and returned to their near-naked state wearing sarongs and flower leis. It is Lamour's character who signals to her husband that she is ready for the honeymoon to begin, and the camera follows the happy couple to their private island where they lay in the sand to make love under palm trees. Just as sensual is the morning after, where Lamour raises the shades of their hut, letting the sun fall on her husband's naked back, and her hair falls around him as she leans down to kiss him tenderly on the neck. This must have been a powerful vision of romance and eroticism to workaday, Depression-weary audiences. The island scenes cast a naive spell, like something from Melville's early books of south sea island life. Ford films these like silent screen montages, with dissolving images of swaying palms, bare, tanned legs, the look of young, tawny bodies and shining hair. Rather than just a professional job for him, his work on THE HURRICANE seems deeply felt.
Lamour was just right here: Though not yet the wry comic actress she would become, she was rather gravely beautiful in a way unusual for an American star then and now, full of languor and sometimes a startling natural grace. The way Marama suddenly pulls her hair back from her face when first seeing Terangi after eight years is an expressive gesture, full of emotion. Hall was very appealing, with the grace of an athlete and for all his muscularity there is something feline about him. And for those aware of rumors that director Ford may have nursed closeted yearnings all his life (as revealed by Maureen O'Hara in her autobiography of 2005) the fevered way that Hall's body and face are photographed in the midst of his torments will have an added charge and interest.
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