Starring: Gene Hackman, Rutger Hauer, Theresa Russell
Director: Nicolas Roeg
Loosely based on the real-life case of the Sir Harry Oaks – a notorious unsolved murder which took place in the Bahamas in the 1940s, and which also served as the basis for William Boyd’s novel Any Human Heart – Eureka is a typically Roegian mix of the baffling and the visionary, part courtroom drama, part mob story, part tale of the occult.
Gene Hackman gives a powerfully enigmatic performance as Jack McCann, a prospector who strikes gold in the Yukon and becomes the world’s richest man, only to apparently lose his soul and become bent on self-destruction. He’s backed up by a remarkable cast, including a lean, youthful Rutger Hauer as his playboy son-in-law who dabbles in voodoo and alienates his daughter Tracy (Theresa Russell); and Mickey Rourke as the smooth mobster who is dispatched from Miami to get McCann to sign off on a big casino deal, over his dead body if necessary.
Playing down the Agatha Christie whodunnit aspect, Roeg turns the whole thing into a picture of futility and a portrait of one man’s inner hell that acts itself out against a series of superbly shot backdrops, first turn of the century Yukon, with its deep frozen mining towns and plush bawdy houses, and then the decadent, leafy beauty of the Bahamas. It’s one of the most visually stunning of all Roeg’s movies, and as always with his best work, you’re gripped and disturbed and left wondering at the meaning of what you’ve seen. 8/10
TRANSFER A very good transfer which does justice to the film’s striking cinematography, with no dirt or grain. The early bawdy house scenes have glowing firelit tones and plenty of detail, and the later shots of McCann’s Bahamas home have beautiful pastel dues, with the sumptuous set-dressing coming up a treat. 8/10
EXTRAS 13-min interview with producer Jeremy Thomas, who covers a lot of ground very briskly – the origins of the film in a book about the Harry Oaks case, and the problems of location shooting in sub zero British Columbia. ~ Extremely interesting 55-min interview with scriptwriter Paul Mayersberg. He talks fascinatingly about how the material was reshaped into something suitably Roegian and delves into the film’s themes and symbolism. ~ 13-min piece with editor Tony Lawson, who describes splicing together the film while they were still shooting it halfway around the world. ~ Audio only interview with Nicolas Roeg recorded at the time of the film’s release and presented here instead of an audio commentary. Despite having his jaw wired shut at the time, the director manages to talk insightfully about how he got into movies, his theories of cinema and so forth. 10/10