In a village of Huguenot refugees, Jonathon Standing is exiled by his father to a nearby penal colony for his improper relationship with a married woman. This penal colony is then invaded by pirates who force Jonathan to lead them back to his village, convinced that it contains a great treasure. Written by
dinky-4 of Minneapolis
When approached by Michael Carreras to write a script for a pirate movie, Jimmy Sangster was cautioned by the producer that they couldn't afford a ship. The ship seen from long shot in the beginning was a stock shot. See more »
During the blindfold fight, the blindfolds appear to be thin gauze that the pirates can see through. At one point, when the pirate hides inside the wooden frame, he glances down at a railing before he places his hand on it. See more »
[to the elders]
I am not guilty. The cause of Maggie's death... was fear. Fear of her brutal husband. Yes, fear is your weapon, and it's a dangerous weapon because one day it will recoil on your heads.
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I taped Pirates of Blood River off TCM only because it showed just before Morgan the Pirate w/ Steve Reeves, which I'd seen as a boy, but my appetite was whetted when the first credit indicated it was a Hammer Film. For post-boomers' information, Hammer was a unique studio from the late 50s through the 60s. The studio's most characteristic films were in the horror genre. The plots of these films featured stereotypical characters, dubious motivations, and exploitative outcomes. But the studio had a distinctive "house style" that featured lush colors, accomplished acting, and, for those Anglophilic times (Beatles, Stones, 007), nubile Brit babes displaying rosy cleavage. Sometimes the parts all clicked. A deep memory is of being home from college in NC around 1970 and walking with friends through the cold to a surviving downtown theater to see "Dracula Has Risen From the Grave." We expected a campy hoot-film but ended up marveling at its quality--haven't seen it since.
Point: given the convenience of a fast-forward button, I'll take a chance on any Hammer Film. Pirates of Blood River is outside Hammer's standard horror genre, but the very opening has the studio's look even if it's set on a lush island rather than in a Gothic castle. The color is rich, and the Maggie character with whom Kerwin Matthews dallies displays the overripe buxomness that was among the studio's signatures. Her escape from her angry husband and other Huguenot elders into a body of water where she is eaten by piranhas earns the film's "Blood River" title.
After that opening, it's not much of a pirate film or a Hammer film, and the Huguenot historical framework remains undeveloped. A painted-in pirate ship appears in one gorgeous landscape shot, but otherwise the pirates grow peckish as they attack a village on foot and carry a golden statue of a Huguenot leader back to the river. Christopher Lee and Oliver Reed, who would later play Dracula, Mummy, and Werewolf in other Hammer Films, embellish their characters with stylish physicality, but most of the other pirates are only irritating or bland beyond their standard costumes. The islanders stage an impressive ambush or two, but overall it's a low-budget, underwritten adventure that feels longer than its 87 minutes. What seems most impressive or charming--and maybe a minor testament to the 50s-60s in economic history--is that such a film could ever be made at all; unimaginable today.
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