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Treasure Island (1990)

Not Rated | | Action, Adventure, Crime | TV Movie 22 January 1990
The treasure seeking adventures of young Jim Hawkins and pirate captain Long John Silver.


(as Fraser Clarke Heston)


(as Fraser Clarke Heston), (novel)
4,289 ( 47)

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Clive Wood ...
Ben Gunn (as Nicolas Amer)
John Abbott ...
James Coyle ...
Michael Halsey ...
Michael Thoma ...
George Merry (as Peter Postlethwaite)


Young Jim Hawkins, while running the Benbow Inn with his mother, meets Captain Billy Bones, who dies at the inn while it is besieged by buccaneers led by Blind Pew. Jim and his mother fight off the attackers and discover Billy Bones' treasure map for which the buccaneers had come. Jim agrees to sail on the Hispaniola with Squire Trelawney and Dr. Livesey to find the treasure on a mysterious island. Upon arriving at the island, ship's cook and scalawag Long John Silver leads a mutiny of crew members who want the treasure for themselves. Jim helps the Squire and Hispaniola officers to survive the mutiny and fight back against Silver's men, who have taken over the Hispaniola. Written by Kevin McCorry <mmccorry@nb.sympatico.ca>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Sail the high seas. Battle the pirates. Live the adventure.


Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






Release Date:

22 January 1990 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

A Ilha do Tesouro  »

Filming Locations:


Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


According to Fraser Heston's commentary, Oliver Reed was afraid of heights and had to be rigged with a climbing harness in the scene when Billy Bones is looking out from the cove with the spyglass. See more »


Just after going ashore on "treasure island" Long John Silver engages in a knife fight with a young man named "Tom". During the fight Silver's knife blade bends against the ground in a very rubbery prop knife like way. See more »


Long John Silver: What's the matter with you lubbers? Ye'd think ye'd never seen a man with his throat cut before!
See more »


Version of L'île aux trésors (2007) See more »


The Star of the County Down
[Heard in the background during the Bristol tavern scene]
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

The current benchmark
17 August 2002 | by (Berkeley, California) – See all my reviews

In Fraser Heston's production of Robert Louis Stevenson's masterpiece, an obvious labor of love by all involved, the classic tale sidesteps another excessively kid-friendly incarnation to live and breathe as Stevenson meant it to. Although its made-for-TV scale pokes through now and then, it does so only momentarily in each case. These little blinks aside, this heartfelt reading of the classic adventure is a worthy piece of work. It's still family-safe but this time there's real menace interwoven with the book's more genteel sensibilities.

How a film begins is often crucial and this `Treasure Island' begins so beautifully, and correctly. A mournful pennywhistle solo ushers in an opening credit sequence that could have been filmed by the painter N.C. Wyeth, whose vision infuses many of the film's frames. I replay this sequence several times whenever I screen this film because it is so evocative. It also perfectly sets the tone for the entire movie; beautifully done. But if they had just held the rousing, though excellent, music back a bit longer and let the sequence walk through on its own legs, it would have been one of the most perfect opening sequences ever filmed.

Charlton Heston as Long John Silver? Don't laugh. His now-familiar voice occasionally surfaces through his 18th century pirate patois, but never detracts. Heston's portrayal is completely effective and is handled with restraint and relish, a fact that is evident the moment his Silver first appears. Silver emerges from the back room of his waterfront Bristol grog shop to confront Christian Bale's uneasy Jim Hawkins who, having walked into Silver's lair, is realizing that he may, quite possibly, not be walking out. Assessing Hawkins through a world-weary expression that has seen it all several times, Silver weighs his options: hear the boy out or drag him into the kitchen and slice him into the salt pork stew, at least.

Heston's Silver is no buffoon. Instead, he is a dangerous man, not unlike the Deke Thornton character in Sam Peckinpah's `The Wild Bunch'; an intelligent person who is forced to endure, and make use of, the human dregs of his time, the best of whom can hold only a dim candle to him. Cunning, quietly remorseless, always several moves ahead of everyone in sight, yet patient in the face of relentless idiocy, this Silver is also a man whose soul has not been completely flogged out of him, by circumstance or the whip. His sincere respect for the innocent courage of Jim Hawkins gives this `Treasure Island' much of its humanity. If you don't feel a pang as Heston's Long John gazes chagrined at the loot, which, for the lack of more far-sighted colleagues, would have been his, you may have the proverbial hole in your soul. `Ah bucko', says Silver to Jim Hawkins near the film's end, after Jim rebuffs Silver's last gentle attempt to manipulate him, `what a pair we would have made'. Oh yeah, absolutely.

All of the book's heroes are portrayed with heartfelt competence; the blustering Squire Trelawney (Richard Johnson), the tack-sharp, impeccably-mannered Doctor Livesey (Julian Glover), the unflinching Captain Smollet (Clive Wood), and Jim Hawkins' arch-boy (Christian Bale in his mid-teens, filled out a bit post `Empire of the Sun', bearing no resemblance to his homicidal yuppie in `American Psycho'). Arrayed against them are the scurviest sea dogs who ever weighed anchor, complete with terrifying teeth and fierce, implied body odor: Oliver Reed's tragic Billy Bones, Christopher Lee's festering Blind Pew, Israel Hands (what a great name), Silver's murderous, cobra-like shipmate, (Michael Halsey), who provides a taste of what Silver himself may have been like in his younger days, and a most convincing Ben Gunn (Nicholas Amer). Peter Postlethwaite, the super-cool big-game hunter in the first sequel to `Jurassic Park', plays the bewildered George Merry, a man who should always flee from even the slightest ambition; someone who makes you happy to still be you, even if your 401K was riding entirely on Enron.

When the time comes for action, it's delivered with conviction. Early on, the tense, hateful confrontation in the Admiral Benbow inn, between the rum-soaked Billy Bones and his scary former shipmate, Black Dog (John Benfield), is beautifully rendered, as is the berserk fight at the island stockade later in the film. To its great credit, the film never tries to be funny, or even light-hearted. It simply forges ahead, telling Stevenson's great story. But near the end comes a scene in which Squire Trelawney confronts Silver, whose schemes are now hopelessly foiled, and attempts to call the old pirate to account. What briefly transpires is the film's only real yuk, but it's a peach.

It's easy to over-romanticize the period in which `Treasure Island' is set; swashbuckling as it may now seem, it was a time before widespread bathing (the future George III's German fiancé had to be told to please take a bath after arriving in England), flush toilets, anesthesia, toothpaste, germ theory, and any notion of social justice. But it was also a time when unbroken forests still covered most of North America, when Pittsburgh was just a rough-hewn, barely defensible French fort in the midst of a trackless wilderness (near the present site of the Pirates baseball stadium; Pirates?, hmmm), a time when, given the courage, adventurous spirits still had real room to move. The slate was still largely clean. Many irreversible mistakes had yet to be made. Anyone with a taste for history and, perhaps, a discernible distaste for certain aspects of our own `advanced' age will relate well to this forthright `Treasure Island'. If you've appreciated Charlton Heston as a movie star, you'll appreciate him even more as an actor. This `Treasure Island' is probably the best that will ever be made. A more `updated' version could certainly be produced; one that spurts more blood and exchanges more bodily fluids, with much of the book's period style and manner stripped out, but it would no longer be Stevenson, just Hollywood.

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