Mock With Me #2

Diamond Head (Green, 1963)


Diamond Head is a wrong wrong wrong wrong piece of cinema. It’s sort of on the early end of the trashy “big, sprawling” melodramas of the mixing of the rich and the poor, the kind of thing that found it’s final, emphatic statement on television. Dallas and Dynasty is where this sort of thinking leads. Some progress was perhaps made in the intervening 15 years – in Diamond Head the concern is first and foremost miscegenation – brown-skinned natives canoodling with the rich white plantation owners, while in Dallas/Dynasty the scandalous beddings were all just between rich and poor, race be damned. At least priorities were reordered.

Representing the rich and white, we have Charlton Heston and Yvette Mimieux as King (King!) and Sloane Howland. They are brother and sister, not husband and wife, although that point needs constant reminding: they can’t keep their hands off each other. Eeewww! Their family has been the rich white noise on the islands for generations, and they’ve kept their blood pure. They’ve got their own private little island and plenty of locals to staff the house and harvest their cane (and if you’ve ever had your cane harvested, you know how painful that can be).

The (relatively) poor and brown are represented by George Chakiris and James Darren as the Kahanna brothers. George is the smart doctor, James the dumb college football player.

Maybe it’s the times we live in, but the racial stuff is preposterously overplayed. No, I take that back – this just had to always be preposterously overplayed. See, the natives derisively refer to the white residents as Howlies. And Heston’s family, why their name is Howland. Get it? They sound alike, and, you see, that’s significant because, well…yeah.

Johnny Williams! That hep-sounding dude is, yes, the John Williams below – the Star Wars, Boston Pops, joined-at-the-Spielberg-hip John Williams. This moniker was the middle period of a musical metamorphosis – in the fifties, he went by Little Johnny Love Williams. Don’t look at me like that, ask him yourself.
There’s King, riding crop in hand, drinking whatever the local equivalent of a mint julep is. The suits have come by to ask if King will be their guy to run for the first Senate seat from the brand new state of Hawaii. Sure, he’s got no political experience – no particular experience at all aside from his daily manful ride past his fieldhands – but he is rich and an egomaniac racist, so he was naturally first in their rolodex.
Aagh! Trouble! Yvette and James have been away to college and are coming back together on a slow boat across the pacific. They grew up more or less together without incident, but in college, canoodling has broken out. When they get back, they’re going to tell Chuck Heston all about it.

Sticky wicket number one: James Darren is of course not Hawaiian. He’s from an Italian background. He’s wearing dark makeup. File that.

Sticky wicket number two: in the middle, helping meet the kids on their arrival is James’ mother Kappa Lani, played by Aline MacMahon. I don’t know what Aline’s racial background is exactly, but it ain’t Hawaiian. She’s wearing dark makeup. Don’t believe me? Check out her picture below, from Gold Diggers Of 1933:
So, file that too.
I dig this shot just for the WTF-ness of Chuck suddenly making like Frank Sinatra doing an album cover shoot.
Back home, and brother and sister can’t keep their hands off each other. Just to make it extra icky, he’s like 20 years older than her.
Chuck meets with James’ brother, played by George Chakiris, to discuss this disturbing interracial relationship that’s been exposed, and how they can stamp it out. George isn’t too happy about it either, mostly because he thinks his brother is too good for these uppity white folk.

Sticky wicket number three: George Chakiris isn’t Hawaiian either, he’s Greek. At least he isn’t wearing fake brownface.

Look, I don’t want to get all politically correct here because that’s not really my style, but this movie could not possibly be more bent out of shape about matters of race and the shame of it all. So you’re just begging me to call you hypocrites for casting Euro-descended folk in the lead “native” parts, and having half of them doing an Al Jolson-style facial cork-up at that. Why, were you afraid parts of the country couldn’t take seeing Yvette Mimieux in the arms of someone who actually was a minority? If you think that, why on earth are you making this specific movie in the first place? Feh.

Director Guy Green accidentally stumbles into an almost-interesting camera setup.

Of course, to make us really seethe with the injustice of it all, we see that King happily carries on with his girlfriend, played by France Nuyen, even while wringing his hands nonstop about his sister. This is another clue that maybe the fact that James Darren’s character is Hawaiian isn’t King’s biggest concern – his biggest concern may be that James isn’t King, and only King is good enough for his…sister. Eeeww some more!

Meanwhile, he’s dating France, except their dates take place entirely in her house and no one can know he’s seeing her. Nice.

Yvette/Sloane, starting to let her single most prevalent characteristic out of the bag – she’s a floozy.
“Hey Bro! How’s it going? Say, were you just muckling onto my fiancee?’

“Sure was”

“Swell! Everyone does!”

Jimmy D, busting out the Solid Gold moves at his engagement party.
Torsos dangerously near! In public!
King drinks this in.
There’s a little dustup in the crowd and the next thing you know James Darren is dead on the grass.
King: I was totally just minding my own business, cleaning my knife when dude just backed right onto it. Sorry to poop the party.

Okay Yvette – your beloved fiancee has just been knifed to death at your own engagement party. Your love is dead, your future dashed in a moment! And the killer is…your unnaturally obsessive brother, your only family in the world! Ready? And…action!:

Luckily, that’s just the beginning of a flurry of act-o-rama dramatic explosions from La Yvette. She gets tipsy and weeps hysterically!
Gets roaring, fall down, Foster Brooks-level drunk in bars!
She gets to slur cocktail-laced epithets at the TV as King withdraws from the Senate race – being rich and all he got the death ruled accidental, but that rabble the public doesn’t really buy it.
The old passed-out-drunk-wakes-up to people kneeling over her routine.
George takes her back to his family’s place and puts her up in her dead fiancees’ bed, tucks her in nicely, and then we get the dream sequence that justifies the whole film:
Horses! In case you’re male and didn’t know, all women’s dreams start with them riding a white horse, stroking it’s long neck blissfully. Not that this should be taken to signify anything. At all.
She drifts in the calm waters beneath a waterfall. Again, just so we’re clear, waterfalls, rushing water sounds – these are symbolic of nothing.
She beckons to someone. Thankfully, director Guy Green has chosen to show most of this sequence superimposed over Yvette’s sleeping face. This way we cannot be confused into thinking this is actually happening. It’s a dream, you stupid people!
Why it’s George! Come to me, George!
No really, come to me.
What? Why now it’s the late James Darren! Is he really her true love?
He wades out to her, getting his Aloha shirt all wet.
As they break their embrace, he turns into…

She wakes up screaming and horrified, or at least as close a facsimile as Yvette can manage. George rushes in to tell her it was just a dream.
But apparently her kind of dream. He cracks and lets her have her way.
Like Scarlett O’Hara, the morning after getting ahold of Rhett Butler.
Predictably and in the interests of melodrama, France has become pregnant with King’s child. Even more predictably, he wants nothing to do with, tries to get her to have it aborted. This is her carrying it to term and having the onset of labor pains. I suspect the pain might be from the child apparently retracting completely up into her abdominal cavity so that she looks completely not-pregnant. My evidence is that in the shot before she had a decent-sized baby bump. Here – not so much.
Double-predictably with a cherry on top, she dies in childbirth. Yvette decides she will raise the child and King can just lump it. He softens only slightly, still denying the child.
To really stick it to him, George and Yvette declare their love. Seeing her with another (brown) man, King goes berserk again, takes a whack at George, then goes off on some crazy-ass horse ride across the island, kicking up mud all over and generally behaving like a four year old.
He has what I suppose we are meant to think is some sort of come to Jesus moment where he realizes he’s an ass and repents of his racist ways. We can only guess because he doesn’t say anything about that, just that he’s going to get his son back. Pity the child – I hope Yvette and George have bolted the country and changed their names because what a sucky dad King would make.

If this is paradise, you can keep it.


3 Responses to “Mock With Me #2”

  1. Ryan says:

    Wow, not the kind of film you expect to turn up regularly on TCM (or does it?). I always wondered what sort of credits James Darren had prior to appearing in “Time Tunnel” in 1966 (also scored by John Williams, by the way).

  2. Darrell says:

    Wasn’t he Moondoggie in at least one of the Gidget movies?

    I think it does turn up on TCM, but not so regularly.

  3. Lori says:

    James Darrenn WAS Moondoogie and it is DEFINITELY ok for all young girls to make out with him no matter what color they are.

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