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I've been a fan of Randolph Scott for some time. Even though it's easy to
predict the outcome in most of his movies, I find them extremely
entertaining and sometimes thrilling. This is not an exception.
Charles Laughton (as Captain Kidd himself), Randolph Scott (as Adam Mercy) and actually John Carradine (Orange Povey) all three performs in this exciting movie about Captain Kidd and his adventure around Madagaskar in the sixteen hundreds. The acting is great and the script is stunning. This film would not be as good as it is without Laughton who is absolutely brilliant as Mr Kidd.
Of course in black and white but that doesn't matter! It's very very nicely done and truly great acting! See it!
Anyone who's thinking that they will get the story of Captain William
Kidd is in for one disappointing viewing. This is not the story of the
real William Kidd who in fact some say, may not even have been a
pirate, merely a British privateer. There's some controversy raging to
this day about whether he left some buried treasure in and around the
New York City area. In fact colonial New York is where the captain's
base of operations was, though New York gets the barest mention in the
beginning of the film.
This version of Kidd has him as a cockney with a burning ambition to rise in class. Actually Kidd was born in Scotland in either Aberdeen or Dundee depending on what source you use. He's a clever rogue, after sinking a king's ship and then accusing that noble captain of piracy.
Giving that story to King William III of Orange, Kidd gets a ship and he picks a crew of cutthroats and sets sail to do more plunder.
Captain Kidd suffers from two faults mainly. It's badly edited, the film clearly begins at a point where some previous action took place explaining some of what we see. Probably something of New York where Kidd began his career. A whole lot of things are left up in the air because of this. Secondly, Randolph Scott is horribly miscast in a part that Errol Flynn or Tyrone Power or Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. should have played. My guess is that none of these gentlemen could be secured for a loan out from their studios. Even Cornel Wilde or Louis Hayward would have been better.
But what enjoyment you get in the film comes from Charles Laughton's florid performance as Captain Kidd. Basically what he's done is taken his Horace Prin character from White Woman and set him to sea. Laughton's overacting is nicely counterbalanced by Reginald Owen as a valet he's hired and takes to sea to teach him the fine art of being a gentleman. Laughton overacts outrageously, but I'm sure he realized that without it, the film would have been dull as dishwater.
Gilbert Roland, John Carradine, and Sheldon Leonard are all part of Laughton's gang of thieves. Barbara Britton looks properly demure as a heroine caught up among them. And Henry Daniell, the man with the built in sneer in his voice, for once plays a good guy as King William.
Charles Laughton fans will love Captain Kidd. And Laughton was even more outrageous when he reprised Captain Kidd when he met up with Abbott and Costello. But that's a whole other movie.
There's plenty of good action and intrigue in this fictionalized
account of the infamous "Captain Kidd". Charles Laughton is in his
element as the treacherous, clever pirate captain, and he is given good
support from the rest of the cast and from the overall production.
The story starts with Kidd having just successfully completed one of his attacks, and using it as a springboard for a more ambitious and daring plan to make himself an English lord. Despite the rather far-fetched nature both of his scheme and of much of the plot as a whole, Laughton's rousing performance and the movie's other strengths carry everything off nicely.
The story setup is nicely conceived, pitting Kidd and his deceitful scheming against some fully worthy adversaries with plots and secrets of their own, with John Carradine enjoyably spiteful as Kidd's long-time untrustworthy partner, and Randolph Scott as a mysterious convict who gets recruited to be Kidd's master gunner. The three of them join in an entertaining battle of nerves and wits, with most of the other characters serving as useful pawns in their game. Reginald Owen also pitches in as something of a wild card character whose loyalties are, for a time, uncertain.
The action sequences are good, and they are also interspersed at well-chosen intervals in the main plot. It has plenty of interesting detail that sets off the action nicely. This is the kind of action-packed movie that, as long as you don't pause to analyze it too closely, provides very good entertainment with a lot of interesting story developments.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I'm always pleasantly surprised at how entertaining some of these era
films turn out to be, and with it's stellar cast, "Captain Kidd" is no
exception. As the title character, Charles Laughton is at his finest,
playing both sides of the sea lanes as it were, in the employ of the
King of England while marauding the King's treasure at the same time.
I got a kick out of one of Kidd's lines as King William (Henry Daniell) wishes him God speed for the voyage to Madagascar; the response - "I am but his unworthy sparrow". Shades of Pirates of the Caribbean!
All the while, Kidd plans on waylaying the Quida Merchant, laden with treasures from India. Those plans also include dispatching his closest pirate accomplices, celebrating each victory with a pen stroke through their names in his personal diary. I'm always amazed by that sort of plot device, as if the villain couldn't remember keeping track of a handful of his associates. It makes for mysterious intrigue though, as well as finality, though in the case of Orange Povey (John Carradine), his name had to be rendered twice.
Fans of Randolph Scott's Westerns will be aware of his many outfit changes during the course of a film, and it's no different here. Starting out in tatters as an imprisoned pirate, by the end of the story he's in a nobleman's attire with the lovely Barbara Britton on his arm. In between, we learn of Adam Mercy's masquerade as the King's informer to uncover his father's murderer; who else but?
Rounding out Kidd's luckless original band are Gilbert Roland and a virtually unrecognizable Sheldon Leonard, who's character Boyle is sent to his reward following a flattering eulogy by Kidd, and then an unceremonious 'pop him over' - beautiful!
If you set your history books aside, you'll have some swashbuckling good fun with this one. In particular, I enjoyed the language used by Kidd and the upper crusts, especially the scene at Hampton Palace. But for sheer delight, get a load of those pirate uniforms on board the 'Adventure Galley' - didn't they look good in stripes?
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Anyone watching this movie expecting epic sea battles and nonstop action will likely be disappointed, but for those viewers who grasp that it's essentially a black comedy, there is much entertainment to be found. Charles Laughton plays Kidd as a conniving buffoon who seeks to finagle his way into a peerage. John Carradine steals the show as Povey, the satanic looking henchman to Kidd. His basso profundo voice and intense eyes have seldom been put to better effect. The other scalawags in the crew include character actors Gilbert Roland, Abner Biberman and Sheldon Leonard, with a nice bit by John Qualen as hero Randolph Scott's loyal sidekick. Scott seems a bit out of place on a ship's quarterdeck instead of a horse, but he manages to do a good job with his heroic role anyway. The film shows its minuscule budget through the repeated use of stock footage, cramped sets and more talk than action, but it compensates with colorfully written and played characters.SPOILERS AHEAD: Two of the best scenes occur near the beginning and end. In the first, a crew of cutthroats led by Kidd haul a treasure chest into a cave to bury it. One of the rogues remarks that it's deep enough to bury a man in. An argument ensues when Kidd gets annoyed at his underlings having the nerve to demand to inspect the chest first. He finally loses patience with the most demanding sea dog, and shoots him. When the dead pirate falls into the hole with the chest, they bury him along with it. Later, Kidd, Povey and hero Adam Mercy ( Scott) dig up the chest. When Mercy finds a human skull, he asks, "Who might this be?" and Carradine replies in a menacingly polite growl, " Perhaps a man who asked too many questions!" There's great fun to be had with this movie for lovers of pirate flicks. Mention should also be made of the dry, comic turn by Reginald Owen as the valet hired by Kidd to teach him respectable society ways. He takes this small part and makes the character into a believable, appealing individual, and not just for comedy alone. Anyone who likes old pirate movies ought to check this one out for a very good time.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Very good swashbuckler film from the mid 40s. Charles Laughton is at
his best...deceitful, scheming and conniving as Captain William Kidd.
The ruthless Captain Kidd buries treasure on Madagascar intending to
never split the spoils with anyone. And that same treasure may never be
found. The infamous pirate tries to pull a scheme on the King of
England by offering to give protection to a treasure ship bound from
India to England. Kidd will skillfully remove the treasure from the
ship he is suppose to be guarding and then blows it to smithereens. But
is the notorious scoundrel of the sea smart enough to keep escaping the
CAPTAIN KIDD features a talented and well respected cast: Randolph Scott, Reginald Owen, Gilbert Roland, John Carradine, Barbara Britton, John Qualen and Sheldon Leonard.
Like THE SON OF MONTE CRISTO (1940), this public-domain title turned up on local TV some years ago; the film starts off well enough and is enjoyable in itself, but peters out towards the end. Charles Laughton (who reprised the role in ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET CAPTAIN KIDD ) is certainly fun as the title villain, and it was especially gratifying to watch him interact with John Carradine; the great cast features innumerable other familiar faces, though Randolph Scott seems positively ill-at-ease in pirate garb (especially after having just watched him in one of his defining western roles by way of Budd Boetticher's SEVEN MEN FROM NOW )! The low-budget is evident in the film's studio-bound look (despite being mostly ship-set!), its use of stock footage (particularly in establishing shots) and the conspicuous stunt doubles during the duel scene between Scott and Gilbert Roland.
Ahoy, mateys! 1945's Captain Kidd is a small gem of a swashbuckler with
Charles Laughton, all menacing pudginess, spastic hair, and bad table
manners, as the roguish pirate masquerading as a legitimate British sea
captain. He and his dwindling posse of baddies (Guess who's causing
them to dwindle!) are aiming to hijack a British freighter out of
In-Jah, scoop up some loot already buried, have their way with a proper
English lady, and whack Randolph Scott, the only man who can reveal
It's all so much yo-ho-ho and the actors seem to be having one heck of a good time. The only problem with the film is that, for 1945, the production values are so poor and the film is so murky that the whole thing looks like it's ten years older.
Find a copy of it in the dollar DVD dumpster at Wal-Mart and have a great time with Laughton chewing (with his mouth open) the scenery and Randolph Scott looking handsome in a series of sailor suits.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It's a very basic story Laughton plays Kidd, a merchant captain who
cons the King of England (Henry Daniell) into allowing him to take to
the sea to recover a lost treasure and escort a ship back to London.
And old fellow conspirator who he thought dead (John Carradine) and a
mysterious young man (Randolph Scott) manage to get on board and cause
problems for Kidd.
The production values are quite decent actually, but the photography is relatively straightforward (it had also deteriorated a lot in the copy I saw on DVD). Quite a lot of good use is made of the ship sets. The costumes are pretty well done I'm used to seeing very flamboyant and extravagant costumes in these "period" pictures but this one had some resemblance to what I'd imagine to be real period fashions, even down to Scott's ridiculous (but fitting) Samuel Adams bobbed hairstyle.
The cast really makes this one stand out from the pack Scott is a very sturdy and believable hero, and Laughton just reeks of immorality and that very British concept of "low" birth. Carradine never cut a finer figure than he does here.
Only real complaint would be that the direction and the photography were rather quaint I hadn't seen the date on the print and I really thought I was seeing a film from about ten years earlier than when this one was actually produced. There was even a shot when Scott and the heroine (Barbara Britton) land on the small island that I think was probably done with front projection, possibly glass mattes from photographs or paintings. Those are kind of nice touches for the fan, but it speaks to how old-fashioned this film was even at the time of its release. It offers the kind of loose romantic thrills that you would hope it to, and I expected nothing more of the film.
A classic example of a pirate melodrama, this production purports
to be based on the life of the historic Captain Kidd (played with
campy, eye-waggling mannerisms by Laughton). There are few
pirate cliches that don't find their way into Norman Reilly Raine's
overwrought script - buried treasures, kidnapped maidens,
English nobles masquerading as buccaneers. Much of it is
unintentionally silly: It is, for example, impossible to take the hale,
beefy, Virginia-twanged Randolph Scott as either an English
nobleman or a pirate. Scott claims two friends aboard Kidd's pirate
ship, both strangely effete, deferential characters: Another pirate,
who acts as Scott's valet, and Kidd's own valet, who spends most
of the movie surreptitiously assisting Scott in his scheming
against the pirate captain. Kidd's companions, by comparison, are
swaggering caricatures, and Kidd spends most of the movie
scheming to dispatch them in one of the film's strangest images:
Laughton, huddled over a small book, jotting down names or
crossing them out, muttering to himself and cackling.
Much of this is good fun, and some of the cinematography is gorgeous - even by today's standards, the use of miniatures and trick camerawork creates a convincing illusion of ships at battle on roiling seas. But the story is so far from history that there seems to be no good reason to name Laughton after the real Captain Kidd, a bumbler whose short career as a pirate and humiliating death was little but a series of bizarre travesties. But the script is awkward and choppy, and many of the set pieces are strangely cramped and stagey, as though this were a theatrical production rather than a film. Ultimately, the true pleasure in watching the film comes from Laughton's peculiar performance, which is similarly theatrical, as though it were an oversized clown act from a London stage transferred to film. He plays Kidd without nuance, telegraphng the captain's bloated greed and amorality as though these were comical personal eccentricities. The closest the screen has since produced to Laughton's outre characterization is Harvey Fierstein's Pirate King character in 1997's Kull the Conqueror, which is pure camp.
Laughton was, in fact, gay, and though this fact is never made overt in Captain Kidd, there is some surprising subtext. Two scenes in particular strike contemporary eyes as having implicitly camp sensibilities - one in which Laughton sniffingly dismisses any interest in female companionship, and another scene in which Scott, a legitimate beefcake, shares a bath with his valet, both happily scrubbing each other while surrounded by hundreds of semi-clad pirates. Yo ho ho.
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