Albert Lewin's interpretation of the legend of the Flying Dutchman. In a little Spanish seaport named Esperanza, during the 30s, appears Hendrick van der Zee, the mysterious captain of a yacht (he is the only one aboard). Pandora is a beautiful woman (who men kill and die for). She's never really fallen in love with any man, but she feels very attracted to Hendrick... We are soon taught that Hendrick is the Flying Dutchman, this sailor of the 17th century that has been cursed by God to wander over the seas until the Doomsday... unless a woman is ready to die for him...Written by
Ava and the Flying Dutchman have a rendezvous with fate...
The mystical romance between a society girl (AVA GARDNER) and a man condemned to roam the seas and only hit port every seven years (JAMES MASON) is brought to the screen with handsome production values and gorgeous Technicolor. But the story itself, while it has many original touches, never really brings the characters or their motivations to life. The explanations are there, but they ring hollow for the sort of outrageous behavior committed by the principals, including peripheral characters such as the swaggering bullfighter and a racing car driver who's impulsive enough to crash his car into the ocean to prove his devotion to Pandora. NIGEL PATRICK is excellent in the pivotal role of the man who loves Pandora unwisely.
Albert Lewin, the director, seems drawn to these kind of other world stories, having done some of his best work in the fantasy genre, as for example with THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY. Aspects of that tale are present here, with Mason as an artist who at the film's start is painting a portrait of Pandora, a woman he's not yet met but is fated to encounter very shortly.
The mystical elements aren't drawn together too convincingly but seem more like pieces of a puzzle that are missing and will never be found.
Ava Gardner was at the peak of her beauty and is well cast as Pandora in a role that might have easily been played by another star of that era, Rita Hayworth. Mason manages to look grimly determined on cue and gives an effortless performance as the Flying Dutchman, but this is a film that is not likely to have wide appeal outside of patrons who can appreciate its artistic leanings.
Nevertheless, it's a "must see" for fans of either Ava Gardner or James Mason even though their characters are not as strongly realized by the scriptwriter as one could wish. Fortunately, the chemistry between them does click.
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