Perry Henzell - Rotten Tomatoes

Perry Henzell

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Jamaican director/producer Perry Henzell's legacy rests, exclusively, on The Harder They Come, a vitriolic 1972 drama, with a strong undercurrent of left-wing manifesto, about the Jamaican ganja trade. This cult film seized the attention of politicized filmgoers in the early to mid-'70s and is one of only two features on Henzell's resumé. Born to a Trinidadian father and an Antiguan mother in Port Maria, Jamaica, on March 7, 1936, Henzell enrolled as a student at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, and worked as an advertising executive for the duration of the '50s and '60s, then turned to filmmaking in the first half of the '70s. Production on the zero-budgeted Harder commenced in 1970 and wrapped in 1972. Directed by Henzell from a script he co-authored with Trevor D. Rhone, and openly inspired by the life of Ivanhoe "Rhyghin" Martin, a bloodthirsty thug who terrorized west Kingston during the '40s, The Harder They Come casts reggae sensation Jimmy Cliff as rural boy Ivan Martin. Martin -- an aspiring musician -- travels to Kingston to make it as a reggae singer, but the effort flops when his first record gets no promotion, and he must seek work in the local ganja trade instead. Only when Martin kills a cop (upon being set up for arrest) and flees capture does his popularity as a musician skyrocket through the roof. Cliff wrote four original songs that are featured on the soundtrack; that album (which eventually went platinum and started a reggae craze in the U.S.) also includes numbers by Toots & the Maytalls and Desmond Dekker. Henzell sold stateside distribution rights on the film to Roger Corman's New World Pictures, which attempted -- foolishly and unwisely -- to market it as a blaxploitation film. Frustrated with this approach, Henzell bought back the rights and attempted to distribute it himself, single-handedly -- but it took him many, many years to break even. Henzell completed one additional feature, No Place Like Home, during the mid- to late '70s, but production details held up the movie's release for almost 30 years. The film finally premiered on December 1, 2006, at the Flashpoint Film Festival in the resort town of Negril, Jamaica -- one day after Henzell's death. He died from cancer in Port Elizabeth, Jamaica, on November 30, 2006, at the age of 70, and was survived by his wife, Sally Henzell, three children and four grandchildren. In addition to Henzell's directorial work, he published the novel Power Game (a political thriller) in 1982, and appears as an interviewee in the 2005 documentary Midnight Movies: From the Margin to the Mainstream.

Highest Rated Movies



No Score Yet No Place Like Home
  • Screenwriter
  • Producer
  • Director
89% Midnight Movies: From the Margin to the Mainstream
  • Actor
89% The Harder They Come
  • Screenwriter
  • Producer
  • Director

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