Based on the Williams play that won the New York Drama Critics Award for 1961-62, THE NIGHT OF THE IGUANA is alternately fascinating and boring. It served to put the sleepy little village of Puerto Vallarta on the Mexican vacation map, and visitors to the town are still shown the rotting
sets for the movie as part of their "official" tour. Burton is a defrocked Episcopalian priest who now earns his living as a tour guide. He's taking a group of schoolteachers around. Lyon, the junior member of the group, finds him attractive, so he squires her to his ratty hotel room, where they
are discovered by Hall. The older woman threatens to have him sacked for his dalliance with Lyon unless he ceases. The group are supposed to be quartered in a plush inn, but Burton takes them to a run-down place owned by friend Gardner, who has just been widowed. The teachers balk, but they are
stranded while Burton tinkers with their bus and must now remain at the seedy hotel. Burton falls ill with fever and tells Gardner that Hall means to have him fired, so Gardner won't let Hall use the phone to call Burton's employers. Kerr, a poor artist, and her grandfather, Delevanti, a poorer
poet, have been working their way across Mexico by selling her sketches and arranging readings by him, and they arrive at the hotel broke. Ward, the tour's bus driver, soon becomes Lyon's suitor. He repairs the bus and leaves, as tour leader, with the teachers. Kerr, Burton, Delavanti, and Gardner
remain at the hotel, and Kerr and Burton become friends. But Burton's mind seems to be on the verge of crumbling. Gardner loves Burton although she sees that his existence might be better served by Kerr and offers her hotel to the two of them. Meanwhile Delavanti, who has been working on the same
poem for 20 years, finally finishes it and dies. Kerr leaves, after burying her grandfather, and Burton and Gardner stay on at the shuttered hostelry as the picture ends. We're never certain whether Hall's jealousy of the relationship, if it can be called that, between Lyon and Burton, stems from
her attraction to Burton or to Lyon. Gardner is depicted as an aging nymphomaniac, whose two hotel boys, Fidelman Duryan and Roberto Leyva, meet a number of her needs.
The offscreen conduct of cast and crew was almost as weird as the film itself. Burton's wife, Elizabeth Taylor, was on hand throughout the filming, sticking like glue to Burton's side, reportedly to make sure her husband's eyes didn't turn too far in Gardner's direction. Gardner, on the other
hand, spent most of her time driving a sports car wildly through the surf along the beach. Director Huston cultivated paranoia by providing guns for the leading players with which to protect themselves from unknown dangers. Lyon, who began her career as the title character in LOLITA, was making
her second film appearance chaperoned by her mother. Her movie life was, at best, erratic (TONY ROME, SEVEN WOMEN, etc.), and she later retired to become a teacher in Los Angeles. The iguana mentioned in the title refers to a long lizard that can be seen roaming the streets and hotels of Puerto
Vallarta--and looks far more ferocious than it is.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: Based on the Williams play that won the New York Drama Critics Award for 1961-62, THE NIGHT OF THE IGUANA is alternately fascinating and boring. It served to put the sleepy little village of Puerto Vallarta on the Mexican vacation map, and visitors to the… (more)