Joe Versus the Volcano: Wikis


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Joe Versus the Volcano

Joe Versus The Volcano poster
Directed by John Patrick Shanley
Produced by Steven Spielberg
Frank Marshall
Kathleen Kennedy
Teri Schwartz
Written by John Patrick Shanley
Starring Tom Hanks
Meg Ryan
Lloyd Bridges
Robert Stack
Dan Hedaya
Abe Vigoda
Ossie Davis
Music by Georges Delerue
Cinematography Stephen Goldblatt
Editing by Richard Halsey
Kenneth Wannberg
Studio Amblin Entertainment
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release date(s) March 9, 1990
Running time 102 min.
Country United States
Language English
Gross revenue $39,404,261 (USA)

Joe Versus the Volcano is a 1990 comedy film starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan.

The first film directed by screenwriter John Patrick Shanley, it was also the first of three films pairing Hanks and Ryan. Despite positive reviews from some critics like Roger Ebert, Joe Versus the Volcano was considered a box office flop, and one of Hanks' minor films. Since then, it has attracted a cult following.[1][2]



Joe Banks (Tom Hanks) is a downtrodden everyman from Staten Island, working in a factory for an unpleasant, demanding boss, Frank Waturi (Dan Hedaya). Joyless, listless, and chronically sick, Banks regularly visits doctors who can find nothing physiologically wrong with him. Finally, Dr. Ellison (Robert Stack), diagnoses an incurable and fatal disease called a "brain cloud" which has no symptoms and will kill Joe inside of six months. Prior to the brain cloud diagnosis, Dr. Ellison believes that Joe's ailments were psychosomatic, caused by his horrifically frightening experiences in his previous life as a fireman. Ellison advises him, "You have some life left... live it well." Joe tells his boss off, quits his job, and asks former co-worker DeDe (Meg Ryan) out on a date. It goes quite well, until he tells her that he is dying, at which time she becomes very upset and leaves in the middle of their date.

The next day, a wealthy industrialist named Samuel Graynamore (Lloyd Bridges) unexpectedly comes to Joe and makes him a proposition. What Joe doesn't know is that Graynamore needs "bubaru",[3] a mineral essential for the manufacturing of superconductors. There are deposits of it on the tiny Pacific island of Waponi Wu, and the resident Waponis will let him mine it if he can solve a problem for them. They believe that the volcano on their island must be appeased by a voluntary human sacrifice once every century, but none of the Waponis are willing to volunteer this time around. If Graynamore can provide someone, he can have the mineral. Graynamore offers Joe credit cards to pay for whatever he wants to enjoy his final days, as long as he is willing to jump into the volcano at the end, suggesting that he "live like a king, die like a man." With nothing to lose, Joe accepts.

Joe spends a day and a night out on the town in New York, where he solicits advice on everything from style to living life to the fullest from his wise chauffeur, Marshall (Ossie Davis). Among other things, Joe purchases four top-of-the-line, handcrafted, waterproof steamer trunks from a fanatically dedicated luggage salesman (Barry McGovern).

Joe then flies to Los Angeles, where he is met by one of Graynamore's daughters, Angelica (also played by Ryan), a flighty socialite who calls herself a "flibbertigibbet". The next morning, Angelica takes Joe to a yacht owned by her father. The captain is her half-sister, Patricia (Ryan again). She had reluctantly agreed to take Joe to Waponi Woo after Graynamore promised to give her the yacht in return.

After an awkward beginning, Joe and Patricia begin to bond. Then they run into a typhoon. Patricia is knocked unconscious and flung overboard. While Joe jumps in after her, lightning strikes and sinks the yacht. Fortunately, Joe is able to construct a raft by lashing together his steamer trunks. Patricia does not regain consciousness for several days. Joe doles out the small supply of water to her, while he gradually becomes delirious from thirst. Joe experiences a revelation during his delirium and thanks God for his life. When Patricia finally awakens, she is deeply touched by Joe's self-sacrifice. They then find that they have fortuitously drifted to their destination.

The Waponis treat them to a grand feast. Their chief (Abe Vigoda) asks one last time if anyone else will volunteer, but there are no takers and Joe heads for the volcano. Patricia tries to stop him, declaring her love for him. He admits he loves her as well, "but the timing stinks." Patricia gets the chief to marry them.

Afterwards, Patricia refuses to be separated from Joe. When he is unable to dissuade her, they jump in together, but the volcano erupts at that moment, blowing them out into the ocean. The island sinks, but Joe and Patricia land near their trusty steamer trunks. At first ecstatic about their miraculous salvation, Joe puts a damper on things by telling Patricia about his fatal brain cloud. She recognizes the name of Joe's doctor as that of her father's crony and realizes that Joe has been lied to. He is not dying and they can live happily ever after (if they can survive being on a raft in the middle of the ocean).


Carol Kane (using the pseudonym "Lisa LeBlanc") and Nathan Lane made cameo appearances.


The original screenplay had a somewhat different ending with the doctor and the industrialist getting their comeuppance.

According to people close to Shanley at the time, the story is based on a near-death experience Shanley had and is his attempt to describe and explain the altered outlook on life he adopted as a result.[citation needed]


The soundtrack for Joe Versus the Volcano, composed by Georges Delerue, was released in very limited numbers as a promotional item. Only 3000 copies were manufactured in 1990, the year of the movie's release. Because of Delerue's strong following, Varese Sarbande (maufacturer) re-released the CD in 2002.[4] [5]

Shanley wrote two songs for the movie, "Marooned Without You" and "The Cowboy Song", the former used thematically throughout and the latter performed by Tom Hanks on the ukulele.

Eric Burdon's updated version of the old country song "Sixteen Tons" was used for the beginning of the film. After Joe leaves the doctor's office, an edited version of Ray Charles's version of "Ol' Man River" plays while he hugs a Great Dane. "Mas Que Nada" by Sergio Mendez & Brazil '66 accompanies Joe while he is driven around New York City buying various items for his upcoming journey. A Spanish version of the song "On The Street Where You Live" from the musical My Fair Lady is sung while Joe is on a date in a Polynesian-themed restaurant. The Elvis Presley version of "Blue Moon" plays as Joe gets ready to spend his final night before heading out on a boat the following day. Joe catches a shark on the boat trip to the tune of the Young Rascals "Good Lovin'". Joe dances to the Del Vikings song "Come Go with Me" on the steamer trunk raft.

Recurring themes

  • The image of a winding road keeps recurring in the movie. It is part of the company logo, the shape of the pathway leading up to Joe's workplace, visible in the plaster damage in Joe's apartment, in the lightning bolt that destroys Patricia's yacht, and in the path to the volcano. "It's taken a long time meeting you, a long time on a crooked road", Joe states late in the movie. Other recurring images include ducks, the façade of the factory, dogs, and the moon.
  • Meg Ryan plays three parts, a symbol for Joe seeming to meet the same woman as a love interest. Joe states, "Did I ever tell you that the first time I saw you, I felt I'd seen you before?" to Dee Dee and to Patricia.
  • When Joe is ready to shed one chapter of his life for another, he also sheds a hat — one in the office and one at the dock.
  • The lampshade in Joe's office has a picture of the volcano. There is also a volcano painted on the side of a building early in the film.
  • Dee Dee sees Joe looking at his shoe and asks him what's wrong. He says "I'm losing my sole." Patricia tells Joe aboard the Tweedledum that she's "soul sick." Later, Joe asks the chief of the Waponis about a doll the chief is holding. The chief refers to it as his tobi, and says "It's my soul." Joe says "I hope you don't lose it", to which the chief replies, "So do I."
  • When Joe is packing his office after quitting, he packs three books: Robinson Crusoe, Romeo and Juliet, and The Odyssey. The themes of these books are the underlying themes to the movie itself.


  1. ^ "Cult Films". Retrieved 2008-10-14. 
  2. ^ Glenn Erickson. "DVD Savant Review:Joe versus the Volcano". DVD Savant ( Retrieved 2008-10-14. , "...Joe versus the Volcano has accumulated an impressive cult (sorry, no other word applies) following."
  3. ^ Alternate spelling may be "boobaroo".
  4. ^
  5. ^

External links



Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Joe Versus the Volcano is a 1990 film about a hypochondriac who learns that he is dying and accepts an offer to throw himself in a volcano at a tropical island so that an industrialist can get a mining concession from the superstitious natives. Along the way, he finds love and learns to truly live.

Directed and written by John Patrick Shanley.
An Average Joe. An Adventurous Comedy. taglines


Patricia Graynamore

  • My father says that almost the whole world is asleep. Everybody you know. Everybody you see. Everybody you talk to. He says that only a few people are awake and they live in a state of constant total amazement.

Frank Waturi

  • [to Joe] Do you think I feel good? Nobody feels good. After childhood, it's a fact of life. I feel rotten. So what? I don't let it bother me. I don't let it interfere with my job.

Samuel Harvey Graynamore

  • [to Joe] Well, does it take more guts to twice traverse a staircase in a burning building, or to make a one-time leap into a volcano? Damned if I know, Kimosabe. All I know is when you're making those kind of calls, you're up in the high country.


Joe: You look terrible, Mr. Waturi. You look like a bag of shit stuffed in a cheap suit. Not that anyone could look good under these zombie lights. I, I, I, I can feel them sucking the juice out of my eyeball. Suck, suck, suck, SUCK... [makes a sucking noise] For 300 bucks a week, that's the news. For 300 bucks a week, I've lived in this sink, this used rubber.
Mr. Waturi: You watch it, mister! There's a woman here!
Joe: Don't you think I know that, Frank? Don't you think I am aware there is a woman here? I can smell her, like, like a flower. I can taste her, like sugar on my tongue. When I'm 20 feet away I can hear the fabric of her dress when she moves in her chair. Not that I've done anything about it. I've gone all day, every day, not doing, not saying, not taking the chance for 300 bucks a week, and Frank, the coffee stinks, it's like arsenic. The lights give me a headache. If the lights don't give you a headache, you must be dead; let's arrange the funeral.
Mr. Waturi: You better get outta here right now! I'm telling you!
Joe: You're telling me nothing. And why, I ask myself, why have I put up with you? I can't imagine, but now I know. Fear. Yellow freakin' fear. I've been too chicken shit afraid to live my life so I sold it to you for 300 freakin' dollars a week! You're lucky I don't kill you! You're lucky I don't rip your freakin' throat out! But I'm not going to! And maybe you're not so lucky at that. 'Cause I'm gonna leave you here, Mr. Wahoo Waturi, and what could be worse than that?

Marshall: They just pay me to drive the limo, sir. I'm not here to tell you who you are.
Joe: I didn't ask you to tell me who I am.
Marshall: You were hinting around about clothes. That happens to be a very important topic to me, sir. Clothes, Mr...
Joe: Banks.
Marshall: Banks. Clothes make the man. I believe that. You say to me you want to go shopping, you want to buy clothes, but you don't know what kind. You leave that hanging in the air, like I'm going to fill in the blank. That to me is like asking me who you are, and I don't know who you are. I don't want to know. It's taken me my whole life to find out who I am, and I'm tired now. You hear what I'm saying?

Patricia: Wait, stop right there! I love you! I've fallen in love with you. I've never loved anybody. I don't know how it happened. I never even slept with you or anything. And now you're gonna kill yourself.
Joe: [to the Chief] Can you give us a minute?
[Chief nods]
Joe: You love me?
Patricia: Yes, I love you. I can feel my heart...I feel like I'm going crazy. You can't just die and leave me alone on this stinking earth without you.
Joe: I've gotta do it.
Patricia: Why? Why? The Chief doesn't even want you to do it. Do you, Chief?
Joe: 'Cause I've wasted my entire life and I'm gonna die. Now I have a chance to die like a man, and I'm gonna take it. I've gotta take it.
Patricia: I love you!
Joe: I love you, too! I've never been in love with anybody before, either. It's great. I'm glad. But the timing stinks. [kisses her on the cheek] I've gotta go.

Patricia: [as they are about to jump in the volcano] Nobody knows anything, Joe. We'll take this leap, and we'll see. We'll jump, and we'll see. That's life, right?
Joe: I saw the moon when we were out there in the ocean, shining down on everything. I've been miserable so long, years of my life wasted, afraid. It's been a long time coming here to meet you - a long time, on a crooked road. Did I ever tell you that the first time I saw you, it felt like I'd met you before?
Patricia: You're not going anywhere without me.
[they kiss]

Patricia: I wonder where we'll end up?
Joe: Away from the things of man, my love. Away from the things of man.


  • An Average Joe. An Adventurous Comedy.
  • A story of love, lava and burning desire.


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