30 Issues We Realized from Renny Harlin’s ‘Cutthroat Island’ Commentary


Cutthroat Island
By Rob Hunter · Revealed on April seventeenth, 2024

Welcome to Commentary Commentary, the place we sit and take heed to filmmakers discuss their work, then share probably the most attention-grabbing elements. On this version, Rob Hunter revisits through the commentary probably the most legendary box-office bombs of all time, Renny Harlin’s Cutthroat Island.

Renny Harlin kicked off his directorial profession within the Nineteen Eighties, but it surely was the 90s that made him one thing of a giant deal. He delivered a blockbuster sequel with Die Laborious 2 (1990) and chased it with extra hits together with Cliffhanger (1993), The Lengthy Kiss Goodnight (1996) which, sure, technically made a revenue, and Deep Blue Sea (1999). He stored making movies after the last decade ended, however he’s but to recapture these box-office hits (exterior of 2016’s fairly horrible Skip Hint which earned oodles abroad due to Jackie Chan).

Whereas two of his hits talked about above arrived after it, 1995’s Cutthroat Island marks the purpose the place Harlin stopped attracting giant budgets to mess around with. A giant pirate journey, the movie endured quite a few troubles throughout manufacturing, a studio in turmoil, and a theatrical launch that was, at finest, a cluster fuck. It has its defenders, however you’d be hard-pressed to seek out them utilizing their actual names. I child, however yeah. Harlin recorded a commentary observe for the movie’s 2002 launch to DVD which then moved to Blu-ray and finally to the newly launched 4K UHD.

Now hold studying to see what we heard on Renny Harlin’s commentary observe for…

Cutthroat Island (1995)

Commentator: Renny Harlin (director)

1. “On the time that this got here out, it was not a really profitable movie in America,” says Harlin, in one thing of an understatement. The movie was a large bomb with its hundred million greenback finances (earlier than advertising and marketing) solely incomes ten million on the box-office. It was such a bust that the distributor, MGM, pulled it from theaters after solely two weeks. It by no means even opened exterior of the U.S. other than very transient runs in France, Netherlands, and Portugal, and it’s the movie that basically tipped the manufacturing studio Carolco Footage into chapter 11. So sure, not very profitable.

2. The movie was a ardour venture for the filmmaker after rising up with a love for ocean adventures and tales about pirates. “I wished to inform a narrative that may entertain and transfer each twelve-year-old in us.”

3. “The movie manufacturing began in very unlucky circumstances,” he says. The script wasn’t completed earlier than filming started, they usually misplaced their male lead. Harlin doesn’t point out him by identify, however that lead was Michael Douglas, who reportedly skipped out after script revisions have been made — reportedly at co-lead Geena Davis‘ request — to develop Davis’ position. The movie’s unique cinematographer broke his ankle one week in and likewise had to get replaced. Climate, native crew challenges, and extra additionally added to the combination.

4. They filmed on location in each Malta and Thailand. The previous was referred to as the main locale for large water tanks on the time, though it has since been surpassed by Mexico.

5. He finds it unlucky that the manufacturing mishaps led to press experiences that gave it a nasty repute earlier than it even reached theaters. For all the trouble that went into it, he provides, they might have simply filmed a yard barbecue and gotten the identical response from moviegoers.

6. They wished to stroll a fantastic line between motion/journey and “a bit little bit of comedy,” and by no means meant to make a critical movie.

7. “Our intention was to not throw cash away,” however that didn’t cease them from making all the costumes and wigs for the movie as an alternative of resourcing what was already out there. It was due principally to the necessity for duplicates seeing as that is an motion movie and infrequently left outfits ruined.

8. “Getting this monkey for the film was fairly a problem,” he says, including that he felt {that a} pirate ought to have both a parrot or a monkey, they usually clearly went with the latter. They introduced the skilled monkey all the way in which from Los Angeles.

9. He discovered the jail location in Malta whereas scouting and felt like he had seen it someplace earlier than. “It was additionally used because the jail in one among my favourite films, which is Midnight Specific (1978).”

10. He’s extremely proud of the movie’s sound design/results, and he hopes we’re watching on a encompass sound tv setup. This being the primary pirate film in “the age of digital sound,” he felt a accountability to verify ever swish and clank of a sword got here by way of as excellent as doable.

11. There’s a Finnish flag seen hanging off a constructing at 25:34, and whereas he acknowledges it doesn’t belong right here in any respect he provides that it’s a nod to his homeland.

12. Morgan Adams (Davis) jumps by way of a window at 27:18 and lands in a transferring horse-drawn carriage beneath her. It’s present in a single take and clearly Davis within the carriage because it rides in direction of digicam, so Harlin provides “I defy you to determine how that was performed.” He says there’s “a bit magic” there, and it’s clear that one thing digital is afoot because the stunt particular person hits the carriage seat after which flips the hair again to disclose Davis. It was 1995, although, so shade me impressed.

13. One thing he’s stored in thoughts beginning along with his time on Die Laborious 2 (1992) and Cliffhanger (1993) is a need to thrill audiences by giving them “an expertise the place they really feel just like the actors are concerned and in jeopardy.” This remark is straight away adopted by a scene that includes Davis and Matthew Modine using in a carriage that isn’t really transferring and is as an alternative sitting in entrance of a blue display screen.

14. Oliver Reed was initially forged to play Mordachai Fingers which is precisely the kind of character identify you’d anticipate from Reed, however he was finally unable to take the gig.

15. Jim Henson’s Creature Store equipped the movie with animatronic animals together with some vicious-looking eel puppets.

16. Harlin says nothing concerning the clearly unintentional beat at 42:45 when a prop barrel flies by way of the air and hits Modine within the head. It’s a large shot, and there’s no follow-up which means it clearly wasn’t intentional.

17. A number of members of the forged and crew fainted at numerous instances whereas filming within the humidity and warmth of Thailand. It was a security concern, however the warmth and solar additionally had a extra sensible concern in that there was a difficulty of tanning. The crew acquired nice tans, however the forged couldn’t as there can be continuity points from one scene to the subsequent.

18. They solely constructed a single ship in Jakarta (versus the 2 that they had in Malta), however they made it with interchangeable elements so they might use it as two completely different ships. They merely swapped out components on the entrance and rear, after which used modifying and digital composition to finish the phantasm. Additionally they constructed fifty-foot replicas for the storm scene and filmed them in a big tank within the UK.

19. The post-shipwreck scene with everybody floating within the water was filmed in Thailand within the open water. It was sadly jellyfish season which led to a handful of stings, however whereas among the forged have been extraordinarily anxious about sharks, “there aren’t actually that kind of sharks in these waters.” The island they wash up on was later utilized in Danny Boyle’s The Seaside (2000). “There’s the seaside that grew to become so acquainted within the film The Seaside.”

20. The outside nighttime jungle scenes have been filmed day for evening “which signifies that you really shoot the scene through the day in daylight, and you employ filtration and movie exposures the place the daylight turns into moonlight.” It could be subsequent to inconceivable, he says, to gentle the jungle properly sufficient and convincingly sufficient to movie there at evening. “I don’t even dare to assume what would occur to the crew should you put 300 folks in the midst of the evening in the midst of the rain forest, in all probability half of them can be eaten by snakes.”

21. It was throughout this movie’s manufacturing that Harlin discovered the distinction between stalactites and stalagmites. One comes down from the ceiling and the opposite builds up from the ground, and the way in which to recollect which is which “is to at all times bear in mind stalactites come from the ceiling as a result of they’re holding Tight to remain there and never fall down.” I used to be at all times taught the the T means high, so, similar distinction.

22. “It’s attention-grabbing how in right now’s cinema, a feminine is embraced and accepted fairly a bit greater than it was up to now.” He provides that it was tough to market the movie in 1995 and to persuade younger motion lovers {that a} feminine lead is an efficient factor.

23. That’s actually Modine and Davis hanging over that cliff. The one vfx alterations have been to digitally erase security wires and so as to add crashing waves because the precise spot beneath him was simply rocks and pretty calm water.

24. The sequence at 1:29:22 the place the traitors are made to leap overboard nearly turned to catastrophe. They have been all stunt males who jumped from the transferring ship, however a few of them instantly started calling for assist after hitting the water. At first, everybody else thought they have been merely in character, but it surely rapidly grew to become evident that there was an actual drawback. It turned out that the boots crafted by costume designer Enrico Sabbatini — hip excessive leather-based boots that have been laced for tightness — rapidly full of water and started weighing the boys down. “It simply teaches you, that you could by no means watch out sufficient, you at all times should be ready for the worst, and even with skillful stuntmen, there’ll at all times be one thing that you’re not ready for.”

25. One among his favourite pictures begins at 1:36:51 as he rigged a cable, from one ship to the opposite, and the digicam glides throughout the water between them.

26. The Ainslee (Patrick Malahide) character initially dies from a sword struggle later within the movie, however Harlin determined in modifying that the scene felt like a pacing drag within the third act — so he blew him up as an alternative by including a digital explosion and fireplace to an earlier shot at 1:37:46. “We unexpectedly, to our actor, ended up blowing him away a bit earlier.” Harlin really acknowledges the issue right here that may change into a much-talked about sticking level in right now’s filmmaking world. “The extra digital filmmaking will get, there’s that hazard that actors won’t at all times know precisely what their future is. Clearly this opens an entire space of questions of what the actors’ rights are, and the way we will be sure that we’re respectful of their efficiency and their rights.”

27. “Hmm, who’s that pirate, I ponder, who will get killed by that girl? Looks like a well-known face,” he says, referring to his personal cameo at 1:41:03 as a villainous pirate killed by Davis’ character. It was the ultimate shot in Thailand, and he’s snug saying that his performing skills restrict him to demise scenes.

28. Relating to the movie’s much-criticized value, Harlin says “I’m sadly not able to debate the finances.” He provides that, in comparison with different motion movies of the time and blockbusters of right now, it was really pretty cheap due to cheaper filming locales and his need to place each greenback on the display screen. he additionally reminds us that whereas it bombed within the U.S., the movie performed properly elsewhere and did very properly on residence video.

29. The massive ship explosion on the finish may have been performed with miniatures, however that’s not Harlin’s model. “It was constructed to final, like an actual ship, to undergo the film and all of the issues concerned within the movie. It was made out of actual wooden, and nails, and supplies, and we blew it up with tons of dynamite, and as you’ll be able to see, there’s nothing left of it. It’s simply, principally, toothpicks after the explosion.” It doesn’t matter what else you may take into consideration Cutthroat Island, there’s no denying that this is among the huge display screen’s most epic and satisfying explosions.

30. Harlin ends the commentary with a tech-savvy and future-proof plug, saying “In case you are fascinated with studying extra concerning the movies I’ve made up to now or the movies I’m making presently or planning to make sooner or later, please go surfing on www.rennyharlin.com. See you within the movie show. Bye.” The earliest DVD launch that includes this commentary seems to come back from 2002 — I might be fallacious right here, however that is the earliest one I can discover to listing the commentary as an additional. Both means, Harlin’s web site hasn’t been up to date since Deep Blue Sea.

Greatest in Context-Free Commentary

“Congratulations, you have got chosen to observe the DVD of Cutthroat Island.”

“It was an thrilling dream to be taking pictures a pirate movie.”

“You in all probability study extra out of your errors than you do out of your victories.”

“DVDs have wonderful sound high quality.”

“What’s a pirate movie with out swinging on a chandelier?”

“My motto for a few years has been ‘should you construct it, you shall blow it up.’”

“The movie was meant to be an journey, and taking pictures it definitely was simply as huge of an journey.”

“That is the very seaside the place they shot The Seaside starring Leonardo DiCaprio.”

“The stronger the villain, the stronger the hero.”

“It isn’t one thing I like to recommend for individuals who like a cushty life.”

Last Ideas

Harlin at all times provides good commentaries, and it’s not simply because his deep, unwavering voice is a relaxing sound all through. He shares anecdotes, talks concerning the ups and downs of manufacturing, will get into the small print of filmmaking, and reveals an actual love for the artform. The movie’s controversies in value and casting are skirted round a bit, however you actually can’t blame the man. A beneficial pay attention for followers of the movie and filmmaker.

Learn extra Commentary Commentary from the archives.

Associated Matters: Commentary Commentary, Geena Davis, Renny Harlin

Rob Hunter has been writing for Movie College Rejects since earlier than you have been born, which is bizarre seeing as he is so rattling younger. He is our Chief Movie Critic and Affiliate Editor and lists ‘Broadcast Information’ as his favourite movie of all time. Be happy to say hello should you see him on Twitter @FakeRobHunter.