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The Night of the Iguana

Updated on December 11, 2014
Flora Crew profile image

Flo is a "professional student" with degrees in psychology and an associates in computer programming and operations.

The Night of the Iguana ,is a 1964 movie based on the Tennessee Williams play of the same name. I had to watch the movie for my "Addictions Treatment Strategy" class at Oakton Community College. As a critic with alcoholism in mind, I was looking for evidence of the disease in the movie. The Rev. Lawrence T. Shannon, an Episcopal priest, played by Richard Burton in the movie, gave plenty of evidence of being addicted to alcohol from the beginning scene at his home church where he went on a rant in the pulpit. Apparently from his later explanations, Rev. Shannon had become sexually involved with a young woman while attempting to help her fight off the urges of the flesh. In the pulpit he proclaimed that he came from a long line of clergymen who had strong appetites and the congregation were the real sinners for coming to spy on him in his demoralized state. If that was not evidence of his alcoholism to point the finger at everyone else, I don't know what defense mechanism would suffice. However, I am reminded of Schopenhaur's proclamation that the mass of men are sinners of the petty type, and wonder if this was the philosophy Tennessee Williams and the director of the movie as well were trying to convey in the opening scene.

It gets better from there. Rev. Shannon becomes a tour guide! In the next scene, Rev. Shannon is shown drinking from the bottle while talking to another hot young lady, who also wants to seduce him. What is a guy to do? Particularly, an alcoholic guy? The plot takes the two of them and several other ladies into the inner world of Mexico with its lavishing surroundings and abject poverty displayed side by side.


I would highly recommend this movie for anyone who has to watch a movie about alcoholism. In real life the rantings of the main character might arouse disgust but with Richard Burton spouting the words, lust or at least titilation (at least in the mind of the ladies) would be the most obvious emotion displayed. There are also quite a few amusing scenes in the movie for its dealing with such a heavy topic. Alas, Richard Burton does make alcoholism seem rather glamorous, sad to say, but it does make for a good movie. Ava Gardner does a supreme job as the proprietor of a hotel the tour group winds up at, and her character Maxine, seems a little under the influence in much of the movie. She also offers marijuana to the women guests at the hotel, an action that might seem less shocking now than in 1964 but still kind of "avant guarde" in 2014. There are some other great roles for women such as the woman artist and spinster played by Deborah Kerr. In fact there are several great spinsters in the movie.

Another interesting feature of the movie is the wide range of sexual identities embraced in the movie in a subtle fashion. At least for today's audience, it is subtle. Good movie! I rented it at first but then liked it so much I bought it! Its themes are not dated.

Sexual themes

Another interesting feature of the movie is the wide range of sexual identities embraced in the movie but not in an obtrusive fashion. At least for today's audience, it is subtle. Good movie! I rented it at first but then liked it so much I bought it! Its themes are not dated.Sexuality is indirectly portrayed in the movie. There seems to be a threesome going on between the owner of the hotel and two sexy looking Spanish hombres. The guardian of the young girl who falls for the Reverand seems to be competitive with him for the attention of the teenager. Also Reverend Shannon seems to think he lusts after the spinster but she knows that he really likes the earthy hotel and tavern owner better, and is better suited to the latter.

Photo Gallery

My copy of the dvd.
My copy of the dvd.

A Movie for all times

The Night of the Iguana is a movie for all times. Most alcoholics of today and yesterday are concerned with philosophical issues, and at times seem profound but at other times absurd and horrific. Rev. Shannon as a character was a timeless alcoholic, and Richard Burton did a great job of portraying him.


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