Under the Volcano (1984)
John Huston was a pretentious bastard, but he definitely had guts. No other director tackled so many great works of literature: Moby Dick, Stephen Crane's The Red Badge of Courage, James Joyce's exquisite short story The Dead, and, in what may have been Huston's greatest act of cinematic daring, Under the Volcano, a masterwork of modern English lit. Written by Malcolm Lowry, an alcoholic so raging he makes Scott Fitzgerald and Jack Kerouac look like choirboys, the novel is a densely cinematic story--told in flashback, no less--of the final days of Geoffrey Firmin, a disillusioned former British consul drinking his life away in Mexico just before World War II. As he did with Moby Dick, Huston pared Volcano down to the raw story, shrewdly opting not to get caught up in Lowry's symbology. But where the Melville adaptation was ruined by miscasting--Gregory Peck's ill-fitting Ahab--Huston found the perfect Firmin in Albert Finney, who turns in the most brilliant portrait of alcoholic ever put on screen. Finney captured not only the despair but the joy drunkenness brings, while also making you believe in Firmin's lost grandeur. Jacqueline Bisset, as the consul's estranged wife, and Anthony Andrews as his cousin lend excellent support to Finney's Oscar-nominated turn.