The phrase ‘Based on true events’ at the start of a film is so commonplace these days that it’s a shock when you don’t see it. Nicolas Roeg’s 1983 film EUREKA, due out soon from - appropriately enough - Eureka Films, doesn’t begin with this particular caption, but you can find out all about the real-life story that inspired it in the extras.
The Klondike in the early part of the twentieth century. Prospector Jack McCann (Gene Hackman) refuses to stop searching for gold while everyone else in town is busy blowing their own heads off or just clearing out before they freeze to death. His persistence pays off and he discovers enough gold to buy him an entire island in the Caribbean.
Twenty years later: Jack is rich, married (to Jane Lapotaire) and has a slightly uncontrollable daughter (Theresa Russell in slightly uncontrollable mode) who is married to Roy Batty from BLADE RUNNER (yes it’s Rutger Hauer playing another memorably odd character). When Joe Pesci and his gang (including Mickey Rourke and Joe Spinell) decide they want to buy part of the island so they can build a casino, it signals the culmination of the problems Jack has been experiencing, both in his personal and spiritual life.
Beginning as a ‘man against the elements’ tale before neatly segueing into what feels like the film version of one of the bonkbuster paperback sagas of Harold Robbins et al, what elevates EUREKA above melodrama into something else entirely is a fascinating, well put together cast and above all director Nicolas Roeg, who provides so many stunning visual compositions in this that you’ll want to watch it several times (and employ the freeze frame) to appreciate them. It also makes you sorry he didn’t make more horror films than DON’T LOOK NOW. On the basis of what we see here, Roeg could easily have been the Argento of British cinema. Perhaps he already is anyway.
Extras are limited to an audio interview with Roeg and talking head featurettes with producer Jeremy Thomas, screenwriter Paul Mayersberg and editor Tony Lawson. You also get an isolated effects and music track (the score is by frequent Pete Walker collaborator Stanley Myers, and there’s a very SCHIZO-sounding bit for fans to spot early on). Eureka also gives us a booklet with new writing on the film by Daniel Bird, a reprinted interview with Roeg, an excerpt from Roeg’s autobiography and Robert Service’s poem The Spell of the Yukon that gets quoted at the end of the film.
Nicolas Roeg's EUREKA is coming out on dual format DVD & Blu-ray from Eureka Films on 28th March 2016