Joe Versus The Volcano (1990) Warner Archive Blu-ray

Under any normal circumstances I wouldn’t touch this movie with a ten foot pole, but something happened. Red Pictures Owner, Michael Felsher, is a big fan of this movie and ever since he started doing live Facebook chats, he’s mentioned his love for it from time-to-time, and, I guess, it affected me, because when Warner Archive announced it was coming to blu I suddenly had an urge to revisit it.

I remember this movie from back in the day,  and for a while I wanted to see it. I was a fan of Tom Hanks back then (that dwindled the more he focused on dramas) and from the commercials it looked funny. The friend I was hanging around with at the time, Chris, ended up seeing it before I did, and he hated it. That was basically enough to quell my urge, but once it hit cable the following year I watched it, and, yeah, he was right to hate it. It did absolutely nothing for me. I was fan of Siskel & Ebert  and I found their coverage of it from their show; Siskel hated it, Ebert loved it!

The only memory I ever retained of this film is a scene where Tom Hanks is having some kind of conniption staring up at the fluorescent lights at his job.

The movie is basically a fairy tale, it begins with “Once Upon A Time . . .” and ends with “They Lived Happily Ever After . . .” Tom Hanks plays Joe Banks who used to be a firefighter, but the life and death aspect of the job started to get to him, turning him into a a hypochondriac, so he quit. His new job, which he’s been at for years, is working in the advertising department of a medical supply company (the second film I’ve ever seen concerning a medical supply company. Anyone remember Return Of The Living Dead?) and it’s a real shitty job. His boss, Frank Waturi (Dan Hedaya), is always arguing with someone on the phone, repeating the same damn thing over and over, and his two co-workers look like zombies. And those damn fluorescent lights make him feel like they’re sucking the life out of him through his eyeballs. An interesting observation that is because I worked once in the mailroom of a newspaper and I remember thinking that very thing about the fluorescent lights above the door I entered every evening. That was one of the worst jobs I ever had.

Meg Ryan plays his love interest, and has three separate roles. The first one is co-worker DeDe, and for some reason she reminded me of this girl, Debbie, I went to school with in grade school, not so much of her then, but of her at her current age. I reconnected with her briefly when I first got on Facebook in 2011.

Joe goes to the doctor a lot, and his doctor is none other than Robert Stack (Airplane, Unsolved Mysteries). Dr. Elison tells him one day he has a terminal illness, a brain cloud that has no symptoms and it’ll kill him in five months! This activates Joe’s lust for life! He quits his job and asks DeDe out, but she rejects him after finding out he’s going to be dead in five months.

Speaking of Airplane! (1980), he then gets a mysterious visit from Lloyd “I picked the wrong day to quit sniffing glue” Bridges as a corporate type by the name of Samuel Graynamore. He knows Joe is dying and offers him the chance to put the rest of his life to some use, specifically for him. There’s this island in the Pacific called Waponi Woo. Its natives have a bad sense of direction (this gag isn’t even played up at all) and have a love of orange soda (this gag at least shows up in how some of the natives are dressed). Graynamore wants the mineral rights and the natives will give it to him if he can find someone who’ll jump into their volcano. Every one-hundred years a sacrifice has to be made and none of the locals want to man up and take one for the team. Not surprisingly Joe willingly agrees to commit suicide via volcano.

This is where Meg Ryan’s second and third characters come into play. She plays half sisters, Angelica and Patricia Granyamore. Angelica is the one he meets first in Los Angeles. She’s a red head this time and a socialite with an odd way of talking. Angelica eventually hands Joe off to Patricia and here we get the blond, hot, normal talking Meg Ryan we were so used to when she was in her acting prime back in the 80s. Patricia knows nothing of what Joe has to do and has only been instructed by her father to take him via yacht to the island. Along the way the two fall in love.

Joe doesn’t end up “facing off” with the volcano until they reach the island at the eighty-five minute mark. Great comic casting choice in making Abe Vigoda (Barney Miller, Monsters episode, “The Gift”) the chief of the natives. Now you would think a movie about a guy who’s going to commit suicide by tossing his ass into a volcano would actually go through with it in the end, and for a moment I thought it was going to happen. It would take balls to kill off the main character once this set-up has been made. I was actually hoping to see this happen, but, alas, it doesn’t. To the filmmakers credits, however, he’s still committed to the jump and he and Patricia actually leap in. You see, she being in love with him now, vows to go where ever he goes and, if he’s going into that fuckin’ volcano, she’s going with him. As i said, they jump, and the damn volcano spits them out into the ocean miles away as it erupts.  The natives don’t fare so well though, and they all go to their graves when the island sinks.

As I said this is a fairy tale, and like all good fairy tales we get a happy ending. In idle conversation as their floating on a raft made of four of Joe’s traveling trunks Patrica tells him Dr. Ellison is her father’s doctor and, apparently Joe was set-up; lied to and lured into this gig.

Joe Versus Th Volcano has some chuckle worthy moments, but it’s not a laugh riot of a flick as I’m used to seeing Hanks play in, it’s just this “odd little movie” Hanks and Ryan made back in the day, which is how I’ll probably always remember it as. Apparently, though, I don’t dislike it like I used to. It’s not a great movie, but I’ll admit I see “something” in it this time. I’m still deciding on whether I want to add it my collection. I might based on the simple fact it’s from a period of my life I enjoyed, and there is a glimmer of hope I might want to watch again. Rewatchability is also a big factor in whether I keep a movie. Okay, so, it looks like it’s heading into my collection. I convinced myself as I wrote this. That might be a first.

Warner Brothers first released this on disc in 2002. This disc marks it’s blu-ray debut! You can buy it here on Amazon.

Video/Audio/Subtitles: 1080p 2.35:1 high definition widescreen—5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio—English subs only

A very vivid and colorful transfer! Colors popped on this one!

Extras included . . .

  • Behind The Scenes Featurette (4:24) (Ported over from the 2002 disc)
  • Music Video (Eric Burdon “Sixteen Tons”) (3:56) (Ported over from the 2002 disc)
  • Trailer (Ported over from the 2002 disc)



About Shawn Francis

Movie collector and horror writer.
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