Victory  (1995) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Victory is based on Joseph Conrad's Victory: An Island Tale, which took place just before the outbreak of WW1 in the area now known as Indonesia, then a Dutch colony. It was filmed in 1995, released briefly and unsuccessfully in Europe, and has essentially disappeared since then, never having been released theatrically in the USA. It is not a bad movie, with some beautiful cinematography, but the distributors seem to have concluded that it was not very commercial, and I agree. It is not sophisticated and dimensional enough to please the literary crowd, and the pacing is far too languid to please the audience which is driven by plot and action.

The story:

The elegant, mysterious hermit, Axel Heyst, who may or may not have killed his business partner, now lives alone on a tiny island, with no company except for a native houseboy, in the crumbling remains of his once-prosperous coal company. He sails to Surabaya to pick up some furniture, and while there he encounters a woman who is being held a virtual prisoner as a musician/prostitute. When the wicked concertmaster who holds her contract decides to sell her to a racist hotel owner, she begs the gentleman hermit to take her to his remote island with his furniture.  Heyst is a man who has deliberately stopped contact with the outside world because he has been hurt and betrayed many times. But he is a compassionate man, and he helps the woman to escape without asking her for anything in return. Of course, they fall in love.

The hotel owner is determined to get revenge for his loss, but doesn't know how until the perfect instrument drops into his hotel. Some shifty criminals open up a crooked gambling operation in his game room. The hotelier can get rid of them and get his revenge at the same time, by telling the crooks about a fortune and a beautiful woman, both of which wait for them, unguarded, on a lawless, remote island.

The crooks do show up, and the dramatic tension of the film, such as it is, comes from the resolution of the situation in which three crooks plot against one man, all of them trapped together on an island. The crooks may possibly be aided by the indifference or outright collaboration of our hero's female companion and his houseboy, who do not trust each other any more than they trust the crooks.


Literary adaptations have to walk a fine line. On the one hand, they must change the book enough to create interesting cinema which will keep audiences awake. On the other hand, they must not change the book so much that they lose what made it great to begin with.


Breasts (three-four scenes) and buns (one scene) from Irene Jacob, including a very sexy wrestling match in which a naked Jacob wrestles with (and defeats) her would-be attacker, Rufus Sewell.

This movie was not really successful in negotiating this tightrope. It retained the plot and exotic locales of the source novel, but none of the complex issues and characterizations that made it worth reading in the first place. For example, the best thing about the novel, in my estimation was how Heyst got the coal company to begin with. Even though Heyst's father had encouraged him to stay distant from people, Heyst had a compassionate heart, and rescued a good man from certain financial ruin. In return, the grateful man got Heyst the opportunity with the coal company. To get the depth of the story, it is important to understand the degree to which Heyst was conflicted between compassion and aloofness, but more important, without knowing all that for sure, the plot doesn't make sense. Why would a hermit who never associates with people, and who is only in town to pick up his furniture, be hanging out in a sleazy club talking to the showgirls in the first place? Not exactly your typical hermit behavior, is it? Kinda makes him the world's most gregarious hermit. Without understanding Heyst's conflicted nature, this episode seems out of character.

Without complex characterization, the plot degenerates into melodrama. Simon Callow (as the evil concertmaster) and Sam Neill (as the leader of the crooks), compete to see who can come closest to the ideal melodrama villain. Callow has the look and the moustache-twirling, but Neill has the effeminate menace to counter. (More effeminate than Simon Callow? Now that's acting!) Willem Dafoe, as Heyst, seems completely detached from the events that transpire in the film, as if he just didn't care how it all worked out, and was actually watching it all in a nearby theater, ala Harvey Corman in Blazing Saddles. I felt the same way. I didn't care whether the baddies killed him. Finally, in the last minute of the film, I was literally yelling "bullshit" at the TV. You see, the tale is being told by a third party. After the tale is told, with all the baddies and the girl having died in a gory and stagy tableaux, Heyst seems to have disappeared. We are led to believe that he moved back to civilization, or at least to San Francisco.

The narrator says "but she won her victory. She taught him to love again."

DVD info from Amazon.

  • widescreen anamorphic 1.85:1. Good transfer.

  • no features

And the filmmakers won their victory. They got me to watch this because Irene Jacob was naked.

She taught me to lust again.

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: I couldn't find any English-language reviews on line.

The People Vote ...


IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, Scoop says "C. Don't be fooled by the excellent cast and gorgeous photography into thinking it is better than it is. It's a beautiful looking film with unusual and interesting locales, and is watchable if you are patient with slow-moving period movies and literary adaptations. If you don't like that kind of movie, avoid it like the plague". Tuna says, "While I didn't find the story especially engaging, the film was beautifully photographed, and set in some scenic tropical locations. The acting was good all round. If this is your kind of film, it is well made, but was a little long and tedious for me, even at 99 minutes. C."

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