On his way to Crete to resuscitate a mine inherited from his father, buttoned-down British writer Basil (Bates) meets Zorba (Quinn), a lusty, larger-than-life figure who agrees to handle the duties of foreman. Though oddly matched, the pair quickly becomes inseparable. Settling into Greek village life proves less felicitous, however, especially in the troubled relationships that Zorba and timid Basil cultivate with two local women.
Based on the novel by Nikos Kazantzakis, the multiple Oscar-winning "Zorba" is all about Quinn's indelible, galvanic performance. A bon vivant who exhorts Basil to "loosen your belt and go find trouble," Zorba is a hurricane of manic energy and strapping muscularity, but also great tenderness. Bates portrays the cerebral, sissyish Basil with perfect restraint, while Oscar-winner Lila Kedrova (as ailing French hotelier Mme. Hortense) and Irene Papas (as a stunningly gorgeous widow) provide excellent support as doomed love interests. Zesty and passionate, even in its darkest half-hour, Cacoyannis's "Zorba" is an irresistibly salty portrait of Greek life.