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The Master of Ballantrae (1953)

Approved | | Action, Adventure, History | 5 August 1953 (USA)
Two noble Scottish brothers deliberately take opposite sides when Bonnie Prince Charlie returns to claim the throne of Scotland in order to preserve the family fortune.



(screenplay), (additional dialogue)



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Complete credited cast:
Beatrice Campbell ...
Mervyn Johns ...
Charles Goldner ...
Ralph Truman ...
Maj. Clarendon
Francis De Wolff ...
Matthew Bull (as Francis de Wolff)
Jacques Berthier ...
Capt. Arnaud


Buckle on your swashes for this swashbuckling adventure with a highlander who fought for Bonnie Prince Charlie who, after various escapades, becomes a pirate. Written by Steve Crook <steve@brainstorm.co.uk>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


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Release Date:

5 August 1953 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Robert Louis Stevenson's The Master of Ballantrae  »

Filming Locations:


Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound System)



Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


In his 1959 autobiography "My Wicked, Wicked Ways" Errol Flynn described the film as a "horrible flop". See more »


The so-called Spanish galleon is a frigate; galleons were replaced by frigates in the 17th century. See more »


Col. Francis Burke: Now be off with you while I still have stomach to eat. And if you've got any of those screeching bagpipes about, please don't toot them so I can hear.
See more »


Referenced in Ken Adam: Designing Bond (2000) See more »

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User Reviews

Two-for-the-price-of-one swashbuckler
19 March 2009 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

I wasn't expecting too much of this later Errol Flynn vehicle, especially as it was taking on one of my favourite authors, my fellow-countryman Robert Louis Stevenson. However, while some of my fears were justified, on the whole I was well satisfied with this irreverent, knockabout swashbuckler.

It probably helps that it's years and years since I read the novel plus the movie also gained big "brownie-points" with me for not calling my countrymen "Scotchmen" and basically by filling up any pauses in the story with big action set-pieces, so that any gripes I may have had about authenticity and truth to source evaporated.

On the down side, there's no question that old Errol was getting on a bit, especially for this type of part. He seems far too old to be his brother's brother, if you follow me, never mind the rakish playboy figure he cuts at the start of the movie. That said, he's still undoubtedly a handsome man, in reasonable shape and still able to leap aboard a pirate ship or engage in a sword-fight to the death with almost the old panache. He's well supported by Roger Livesey who hams it up royally as an Irish adventurer (does anyone in this movie speak in their native dialect?).

On the debit side are devices like the stentorian-voiced announcer who makes "voice of God" interjections it seems every 15 minutes, the complete lack of suspense at Flynn's two supposed early demises (as if...!) and I can't resist saying it after all, the complete lack of even one authentic Scottish accent - Flynn doesn't even try. (I've checked the cast-list and not one is Scots-born!)

But with Jack Cardiff's sparkling photography (every frame seems bathed in an almost Rubens-ian like golden-light), some good if not "Robin Hood" - vintage sword-play and similarly good if not "Captain Blood" - vintage action on the pirate-ship, the movie proceeds with the pace of a page-turning Stevenson novel and before you know it you're at the finish as Flynn, Livesey (and Beatrice Campbell as his lover Lady Alison) evade the English Army's hangman's rope (hurrah!) and make their dramatic escape over the hills and far away.

A bit two for the price of one then, pirate action coupled with a historical-costume swashbuckler. Personally I rather enjoyed it and will consciously now not avoid, as I have been doing, Flynn's post-war work. More "used-to-be" than "has-been" and there is a difference.

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