The Spiral Road


Adventure / Drama / Romance

Rotten Tomatoes Audience - Spilled 27%
IMDb Rating 6.1 10 535

Plot summary

Uploaded by: FREEMAN
June 22, 2022 at 11:31 AM

Top cast

Burl Ives as Dr. Brits Jansen
Rock Hudson as Dr. Anton Drager
Karl Swenson as Insp. Bevers
720p.BLU 1080p.BLU
1.25 GB
English 2.0
23.976 fps
2 hr 19 min
P/S 37 / 88
2.32 GB
English 2.0
23.976 fps
2 hr 19 min
P/S 53 / 102

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by Gooper 9 / 10

Superbly evocative of tropical colonialism.

This is a big picture, which deserves more exposure. In the early 60s Universal was more known for fluffball (but high quality) Doris Day product, but here they show their diversity by presenting what was obviously a prestige picture. Bob Mulligan, who scored a hit with 'To Kill a Mockingbird' in the same year, got to try his hand at an epic. The main titles are perfect to set the mood: youthful Jerry Goldsmith's talents as a composer are spectacular and atmospheric. He of course used gamelans in his score, but he uses them with concise effect, and without cliché. The graphics of the titles are very fine: colourful maps guide us in to a strange 'exotic' place. Such a relief from the sterile titles of today.

This film really made a big impression on me as a kid when I saw it on TV in the late 60s. 'Pan and scan' TV viewing had a definite mystique to it, as the process of squeezing anamorphic images into The Box automatically made the picture in question important. 'The Spiral Road' was no exception. But it IS important. I can imagine the grandeur of seeing it in a full-blown picture palace. Everything in the film is competently executed. I even remember the props, such as Rock's intriguing spherical fan on his bedside table.

The performances are excellent, reliable, and everyone really delivers. Burl Ives practically steals the show (as usual), and gets some good 'honeylamb' lines in. The aged Sultan is memorable. The fabulous Larry Gates, one of the greats, never disappoints. This role was a warm up for his deeper part as the missionary in 'The Sand Pebbles', a more profound companion to this picture.

'Lord Jim' of 1965 explores the same 'dark side of the jungle', only a century earlier. All three are outstanding examinations of the many dimensions of tropical and Asian colonialism, albeit from a Western viewpoint.

I agree that it's time this picture, and many more like it, was allowed into wider exposure via video/DVD. Vendors, take note!

PS: I just saw the DVD edition, and I was not disappointed. The picture holds up very well, though I would have wished for more Burl Ives in the last sequences. Russell Harlan's camera-work is outstanding, only matched by his work on 'Hawaii' a few years later.

Reviewed by neal-57 10 / 10

Unaccountably overlooked or dismissed gem

One of those special films I can watch over and over again, noticing new details on each viewing, "The Spiral Road" hasn't even made it to video--my own copy was taped off the air long ago--yet it seems to have enjoyed a long life on television. Even harder to find than the film is the book on which it's based, written by Jan De Hartog, whose other works are easily found in most libraries.

The book is very Dutch is setting and tone, and this was predictably softened in the film: Dr. Anton Zorgdrager becomes Dr. Anton Drager, Dr. Brzhezinska-Jansen becomes Dr. Brits Jansen, et cetera. Much of the soul-searching in the book is lost, though not all. In particular, the very seamy backstory of Salvation Army Captain Willem Wattereus is completely missing from the film, though Geoffrey Keen is skilled enough to convey, through looks and movement, the suggestion of uncharted depths in a character reduced by the script almost to cardboard.

It is fine performances that make this film work. Rock Hudson has always, I believe, been underrated as a dramatic actor--although this is beginning to change, as new audiences discover his brilliant performance in the video release of "Seconds." Too bad they can't find "Spiral" on video as well. He made it just before "Seconds," and he's just as good, striking the perfect balance of competence and arrogance as an opportunistic and atheistic young doctor who comes to the then-Netherlands East Indies in the late '3O's to fulfill his contract: five years of service in return for a government-financed education--during which he will confront cunning natives (the whites' contempt for them is a subtle undertone carefully controlled by director Robert Mulligan), God and himself.

Other standout performances: Burl Ives as Dr. Brits Jansen, modulating perfectly the rolling transitions of his larger-than-life character from cynicism to wonder, gravity to buffoonery; Gena Rowlands as Els, the "girl" from back home, valiantly overcoming the "fainthearted" stereotyping of her part, the afore-mentioned Keen, the always-reliable Robert F. Simon, and Philip Abbott in a role pivotal to the plot.

UPDATE (12/O6): After forty-four years, this fine film is now available on DVD. What a wonderful surprise--thank you, Universal.

Reviewed by bkoganbing 8 / 10

More Things In Heaven And Earth

One of Rock Hudson's best dramatic performances is to be found in The Spiral Road. Coming in the midst of all those screen comedies he made with Doris Day and others it's often overlooked. But don't you overlook it.

The Spiral Road casts Rock Hudson back in the day when Indonesia was a colonial possession of the Dutch and called the Dutch East Indies. Rock is a newly minted doctor his education paid for by the Netherlands and he owes them five years of colonial service. But he intends to make it pay for him.

His intention upon arriving in Batavia which is what Jakarta was called way back when is to wangle service with Burl Ives who is a doctor who has a great reputation of treating leprosy. But he also hasn't published in 20 years and his knowledge with a little editing from Rock would land him a top research job.

Ives is a crusty old soul, but a real humanitarian, a kind of Albert Schweitzer wrapped in burlap. They take to each other even after Ives finds out what Hudson's doing and even after Hudson's sweetheart Gena Rowlands comes in from the Netherlands to be with him. They even marry though she stays in Batavia weeks at a time.

Hudson's going through a spiritual crisis and is convinced of the fact that he needs nothing in the way of any kind of faith to help him in life. His father was a bible thumping hypocrite, a modern day Pharisee as he describes him. It's turned him into quite the atheist.

He's going to need something to refuel his psyche when he's caught out in the jungle matching wits with a witch doctor on his own turf. Those last 20 minutes or so when Rock the matinée idol turns into something like Cro-Magnon man are something to see.

The Spiral Road is not a pretty picture of colonialism, in this case the Dutch variety. The scenes of the drunken revelry among the rich planters with Ives even joining in the fun are revealing. One of the best performances in the film is that of Phillip Abbott as another doctor who has totally assumed an air of white supremacy to mask a whole lot of insecurities.

The opposite of him is Geoffrey Keen who is a member of the Salvation Army and who runs the leper colony. One of the most moving scenes in the film is Keen, Ives, and Hudson at the bedside of Keen's wife who has become a leper. She's never shown because of the curtains around her bed, but it's clear she's in the final stages. Keen is concerned for her, but not much more so than he is for all the people in his charge. Another key scene is when Hudson and Ives discuss his recommendations based on Ives's case study notes. It sounds like a plea for privatization which you hear often these days from folks on the right. Get rid of the ones who are able to fend for themselves and a non-religious run colony is the best way to do it. The problem says Ives is that due to the misconceptions about leprosy these people have no place else to go.

Some viewers might also object to The Spiral Road's overtly Christian message. One of the other characters is a native Moslem doctor who also falls prey to that witch doctor and Hudson's character remarks that his prayer rug wasn't enough to keep him from any harm. Of course atheist, Christian, and Moslem are all not playing in their own ballpark.

Despite the great acting and the wonderful location color cinematography which will remind you a lot of The Mission. It should because The Spiral Road was also shot in Surinam when it was still Dutch Guiana. The Spiral Road's message is not all that clear. It wants to be Christian, but can't quite come to grips with the concept.

I think that Hamlet said it best when he remarked to Horatio that "there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of in your philosophy." That's the message the film gives out.

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