'Ebb Tide' is based on a novel begun by Robert Louis Stevenson and completed by his stepson Lloyd Osbourne. I tried reading it once, but found it too dull. This movie is more interesting (largely due to the presence of two attractive young actresses), but not very believable. The stars of this film are James Kirkwood and Lila Lee, in real life a married couple whose son later wrote 'A Chorus Line'.
I only poorly remember the source novel, but this film 'Ebb Tide' doesn't much seem to resemble it. This movie seems more like a disguised version of '20,000 Leagues Under the Sea', with all the action set above the ocean's surface.
Robert Herrick (Kirkwood) is a disgraced and dissipated Englishman who has washed up in Tahiti. Close to hand is his comrade Huish: that's not an English name, but Huish is apparently a Cockney because actor Raymond Hatton's dialogue is rendered in Alf Doolittle-style intertitles. Hoping for a meal ticket, the two of them sign aboard with drunken old Captain Davis (well played by George Fawcett). Davis is a rummy old seadog whom nobody will trust with a ship, yet for some reason he's recently been engaged to ferry a cargo of booze.
Unknown to Herrick, Davis's backers are only interested in barratry. They expect the old drunk to sink the ship -- a 'coffin ship' -- so that they can claim an insurance loss. When Davis's incompetence threatens to scuttle the ship, Herrick's quick action manages to make the ship run aground instead ... on a conveniently uncharted island.
The island is run by Richard Atwater (Noah Beery), who rules the natives like a great white bwana. The natives supply him with pearls, which Atwater manages to sell for whacking huge gobs of lolly in some distant port. (How does he do this while remaining on an uncharted island?) Like Captain Nemo, this man Atwater has deliberately isolated himself from civilisation yet manages to amass a large amount of wealth. Also like Captain Nemo, when Atwater acquires some unexpected guests (Herrick and Huish) he has no intention of letting them return to civilisation.
Years ago, when Atwater came to this island with his young wife and their infant daughter Ruth, his overseer tried to seduce Atwater's wife. So, Atwater killed the bloke and now he won't trust any other white man ever again. Thus, his refusal to release Herrick and Huish. Meantime, his infant daughter Ruth has grown up to be a very attractive young woman indeed. And Robert Herrick is the first white man she's clapped eyes on in years, apart from her father. Significant glances ensue in the close-ups.
Lila Lee and Jacqueline Logan (as a Tondelayo girl) are both quite pleasant to look at, and George Fawcett is impressive in a role that easily could have been overacted. Once the vast engine of the story's premise is trundled into place, the plot becomes very predictable. 'Ebb Tide' is left high and dry (though there's plenty of booze on screen). I'll rate this movie 3 points out of 10.
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