Repressed, timid writer Alan Bates arrives in Crete with the goal of re-opening a mine leftto him by his father. On the way to the small village where he will live, he hooks up with theexuberant Zorba (Anthony Quinn, who, as an American of Irish and Mexican extraction, is nomore Greek than Bates). Bates puts Quinn in charge of the mine, and Quinn sets himself themission of teaching Bates how to take risks in life.
The broad arc of the story — repressed Anglo-Saxon …aught by life-loving Greek to loosenup and enjoy life — is identical to that of Never on Sunday, which appeared four yearsearlier in 1960. But Melina Mercouri only took 97 minutes to get Jules Dassin to that point,while Quinn needs 142 to accomplish the same for Bates. That extra time is dearly felt, as thefilm meanders along with very little focus, veering from relentless Big Fat Greek Heartiness tomelodramatic overkill. The result is, in a couple of cases, a crippling imbalance. For example(SPOILER ALERT), the deaths of the only two important female characters are forgotten aboutin the very next scenes, making the film guilty of the same kind of vicious patriarchy it purportsto condemn. Why the film generated such interest in Crete is beyond me, as the locals all comeacross as ignorant, vicious, subhuman savages. To its credit, the film does have stunningcinematography by Walter Lassaly, a larger-than-life performance by Quinn, and a pretty funnyclimax.
The sound comes in both the original mono and a 2.0 remix. The stereo track has the sameflaws that afflict the other Studio Classics releases, the most obvious being surround voices. Themusic (which began a brief craze) sounds fine in stereo, and there are a few nice effectsmoments, notably during the opening rain storm. The sound is undistorted and free of buzz.
The print is in excellent shape, being almost totally free of speckles and grain. The tones andshades of the black-and-white are fabulous, and the blacks are as deep as can be. There is novisible edge enhancement or pixelation, and the image is very sharp. The only real flaw is a veryslight flicker. The aspect ratio is 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen.
The commentary here is by director Michael Cacoyannis and Greek scholar DemetriosLiappas. Cacoyannis has plenty of memories about the film, a work he is obviously very pleasedwith. Liappas puts special emphasis on the work of Nikos Kazantzakis, author of the book onwhich the film is based. The other extras are on Side B, and here the main feature is an A&EBiography about Quinn. There is also the alternate intro to the film (a dismaying extended gagwith Quinn as God surrounded by cotton clouds), and this bit is so ludicrous that we can all bethankful for its removal. The two Movietone newsreels (showing location shooting of the filmand its premiere) are silent, though an introductory screen explains what we are seeing. There is abehind-the-scenes still gallery. As for trailers, you have the teaser, the theatrical trailer, and a TVspot. There are also a handful of trailers for other Studio Classics releases. The menu isbasic.
Though the film is no masterpiece, falling well short of its pretensions, it is still an importanttitle from its period, and the release is a welcome one, especially given the marvellous quality ofthe print.
Special Features List
- Audio Commentary
- A&E Biography: “Anthony Quinn: A Lust for Life”
- Alternate Intro
- Movietone News Footage
- Theatrical Trailer, Teaser and TV Spot
- Still Gallery