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The parents of children living in Jamaica, afraid that the kids are growing up uncivilized, decide to send them to England. But during the voyage, the childrens' ship is boarded by pirates and in the confusion the children wind up trapped on the pirate ship. The children view it as a lark, and one of them, a girl named Emily, develops an unusual bond with Chavez, the pirate captain. The superstitious pirates can't wait to unload the kids at the first port, but a tragedy prevents it, and Emily's relationship with Chavez takes a fateful twist. Written by
This film had a long and troubled history. Richard Hughes's original novel, published in 1929, is a dark and disturbing story, and James Mason, who greatly admired it, wanted to make a film of it in the 1950s, producing it for Twentieth Century-Fox as well as playing one of the leads. However, the studio saw it as a light-hearted Disney-style pirate adventure aimed at a family audience; several years after Mason's plans had come to nothing, they revived the project along these lines with Nunnally Johnson assigned as writer and producer. When Alexander Mackendrick was approached to direct, he was appalled by the travestying of Hughes's novel, and was able to persuade leading man Anthony Quinn that a more faithful and disturbing version of the book was a better idea. Johnson's script was rejected. Quinn used his (considerable) influence to help Mackendrick and the ensuing film was highly praised; it was, however, cut by the studio by about 25 minutes, which Mackendrick claimed had ruined it. He always insisted subsequently that he should never have attempted the film, which was a box-office failure. See more »
The hurricane at the beginning of the film is rather clearly created with a combination of wind machines and water sprayed onto the set. Despite the torrential downpour there is sun-dappling beneath the tree where Emily is looking for her cat, and blue sky and puffy white clouds are visible in the distance behind her and her father. See more »
I first saw this film as a child, and was surprised that I remembered so much of it over 30 years later. It is an unusual story of children who end up on a pirate ship by a quirk, and their relationship with the pirates, who regard them as unlucky. Which turns out to be true, in an unforeseen way. Anthony Quinn, as pirate captain, is superb, as are all the cast, especially the actress playing Emily, the oldest child.
Forget any preconceived ideas you might have about the plot. This is a haunting, unforgettable story.
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