At Work on Under the Volcano

Never has a Hollywood filmmaker been less fazed by the prospect of tackling adaptations of major books than the journeyman director John Huston. By the time he dug his nails into Malcolm Lowry’s 1947 Under the Volcano (ranked the eleventh greatest English-language novel of the twentieth century by the Modern Library) in 1984, Huston had already brought to the screen Moby Dick, The Red Badge of Courage, Reflections in a Golden Eye, Wise Blood, and, um, the Bible. The film, which vividly depicts the surreal final days of a persistently soused, self-destructive British diplomat in Mexico, is a triumph for Huston and for the always fiery Albert Finney, who received an Oscar nomination for his role. In the following clips, watch a scene that highlights Finney’s adeptness at finding the humor in his ultimately tragic character, and then footage of Huston directing that scene.

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