The Roots of Heaven (1958)

Genres - Adventure, Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Adventure Drama, Melodrama  |   Release Date - Oct 15, 1958 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 131 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Craig Butler

The Roots of Heaven is an uneven picture, coming out slightly on the plus side when everything is considered, but actually of more interest for the story behind its filming than for the film itself. (The shoot was legendarily troubled, with temperatures regularly in the 130 degree range melting the make-up on the actors, people suffering from heat stroke and malaria, and reported fights between Errol Flynn and John Huston.) With all the effort that went into making Roots, it's too bad that it's not a better film -- but it's also not the bad film that many, including director Huston, have made it out to be over the years. Certainly, Roots suffers from inconsistency in its storytelling, with plot points that arise and then seem to be forgotten without ever reaching a resolution. Huston's hand also does not seem very sure here, as if he's having a hard time staying focused -- or at times even interested; Roots was a hard film to make, and the struggle is evident in the direction, with Huston managing some moments of brilliant clarity but suffering through other moments when he just can't seem to grab hold of the film. But the story itself has a great deal of interest, and the subject matter is one which has greater appeal to modern audiences. Trevor Howard is quite good in the leading role, although he's not able to exert the kind of star power needed to make the picture come together, and Flynn gives one of his finest late-career performances. Roots could stand to be trimmed, and it's far from perfect, but fans of Huston should definitely take a look at a film that the director too easily dismissed.