The pirate movie "Captain Kidd" opens with narration over an explosive battle at sea that establishes the setting, the characters, and the rationale for action on the part of the Randolph Scott hero. Interestingly, this sea battle is the only one that occurs in this otherwise formulaic pirate movie that concerns stolen treasure, an abducted female aristocrat, and honor. Indeed, "Captain Kidd" has more dialogue sequences than it has action sequences with cannons being fired and ships sinking into the briny deep. Granted, it isn't the best, nor is it the worst.
"Madagascar," booms the narrator, "for centuries the bloodiest cockpit of all the seas where the infamous brotherhood of the damned waited to plunder the treasure laden galleons of India and . . . then return drunken with slaughter to their pirate stronghold of the last hope. Most ruthless of all was Captain William Kidd. He encountered the great London galleon The Twelve Apostles commanded by Admiral Lord Blaine and approaching unsuspected in the guise of a peaceful merchant by a sudden treacherous salvo reduced her to a burning hulk. When night fell, the Twelve Apostles was only a blazing funeral pyre on the placid surface of a Madagascar lagoon." At this point, Captain Kidd (Oscar winner Charles Laughton of "The Private Life of Henry VIII") and his accomplices bury the booty from The Twelve Apostles as well as prizes from other ships. Before they lower the treasure chest into a hole that they have dug in a cave, Kidd's cutthroats want one more glance at the treasure that they have acquired through acts of piracy. No sooner does one pirate observe that the pit is deep enough to bury a man than Kidd shoots him and they bury the dead man with their loot.
The year is 1699. At Hampton Court Palace, one of King William II's advisors proposes that His Majesty authorize Captain Kidd to sail under the British flag. At this point, the English believe Kidd has attacked only Spanish ships. Kidd tells the King that he fell into the hands of a ship commanded by Blaine, a high-ranking British officer that had turned pirate. Of course, Kidd is lying. Nevertheless, William outlines Kidd's task: "And now captain, the main mission of your cruise is to meet a great ship, the Quida Merchant, sailing from India with vast treasures and to give her safe conduct in my name past the waters of Madagascar." As his reward, Kidd requests that William give him Admiral Blaine's castle and lands. Initially, William reacts with horror at the notion that Kidd plans to recruit a crew from Newgate Prison. Kidd defends himself, "There's none would be so loyal, nor fight so desperate, as cutthroats under sentence of death... if they knew that at the end of the voyage a royal pardon would be in their pockets." Among the pirates imprisoned in Newgate Prison is Adam Mercy (Randolph Scott of "Virginia City") and his best friend Bart Blivens (John Qualen of "The Searchers).
Meanwhile, the scheming captain contemplates more than merely protecting one of his Majesty's ships. He keeps a list of comrades that he aims to kill and tries to figure out a way to serve best the King and himself. No sooner has Mercy come aboard than Kidd suspects that he is an agent of the King William, particularly when Mercy refuses to drink a toast to the sovereign. Meanwhile, the treacherous Kidd whittles down his accomplices so that none will survive to share the booty from The Twelve Apostles. At the same time, we learn that Mercy isn't really Mercy, but he is the son of Admiral Blaine. Mercy/Blaine wants to clear his later father's good name. It seems that William branded him as a pirate, as a result of the encounter between Kidd and him.
Anyway, Kidd has an ocean rendezvous with the treasure ship. He sends his cohort Jose Lorenzo (Gilbert Roland of "Any Gun Can Play") into the powder magazine to supervise the transfer of ammunition. In fact, Lorenzo leaves a burning candle attached to several fuses. Not long afterward, the British ship vanishes in a terrific explosion and sinks. Before the ship goes down, the captain, Lord Fallsworth (Lumsden Hare of "Rogue's March") and the comely Lady Anne Dunstan (Barbara Britton of "Bwana Devil"), are climbing aboard Kidd's ship. Kidd doesn't waste time with Fallsworth. As the treasure chest is hoisted up in a net, Kidd pushes it and the net with its chest flies back and strikes the captain, knocking him overboard to his death into a long ship below. Appropriately, Lady Anne is horrified. Later, Lorenzo makes a play for her affections. She screams, and Mercy comes to her rescue. Kidd and another comrade Orange Povey (John Carradine of "The Grapes of Wrath") watch as Mercy defeats him in a swordfight.
"Captain Kidd" boasts a fine, first-rate cast including Gilbert Roland, horror icon John Carradine, and several notable character actors, but the action is confined to ship sets, prison interiors, and no sea battles take place after the battle at the beginning of the story.
Laughton later reprised his role as the nefarious pirate in the 1952 Universal Studios' comedy "Abbot and Costello Meet Captain Kidd." Director Roland V. Lee, who directed a hodgepodge of every genre in Hollywood, keeps the action moving aheadespecially when there's nothing but dialogueso that "Captain Kidd" is more than tolerable entertainment, nothing great, but watchable on a rainy day. Laughton with his hammy chops chews the scenery with relish, while Randolph Scott does nothing to conceal his Virginia accent. Interestingly, this was director Roland V. Lee's last movie to direct and the last one that his brother Robert N. Lee to provided with a story. Norman Reilly Raine, who penned two Errol Flynn features "The Adventures of Robin Hood" and "The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex," wrote the screenplay that contains some clever dialogue.
5 out of 7 found this helpful.
Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.