Albert Lewin's work as director had not impressed me prior to seeing "Pandora and the Flying Dutchman" I found myself frankly quite bored by his version of Maugham's "The Moon and Sixpence" as well as "The Private Affairs of Bel Ami". "The Picture of Dorian Gray" has quite the reputation, but I unfortunately haven't seen it yet.
'Exceeded expectations' cannot begin to describe how surprised I was at how absorbing, intense, captivating, and utterly gorgeous "Pandora and the Flying Dutchman" is. Sure, there are flaws, mostly in the script which occasionally seems to think it's smarter than it actually is and goes for the sort of intrusive voice-over narration that never fails to annoy, but also in scenes where Lewin's decisions as director become frustrating and in the score which is generally quite good but often overbearing.
Regardless of its flaws, "Pandora and the Flying Dutchman" is a literate, creative, fairly original, and exceptionally well-acted film, with the exceptional feature of being photographed by Jack Cardiff OBE, who was on quite a run going into this film having photographed the three Powell/Pressburger classics from the 40's: "A Matter of Life and Death", "Black Narcissus", and "The Red Shoes" as well as the underrated if not exactly great 1949 Hitchcock offering "Under Capricorn". James Mason and Ava Gardner are really excellent here in the lead roles.
I was not looking forward to "Pandora and the Flying Dutchman" but I found myself very pleasantly surprised by it. It's far from a perfect film but I did find it to be quite excellent; even the melodrama that tends to bother me in romances from this era of film worked in the context of this film. A surprisingly good film, overall.
I was an usher in the Paramount Theater in Wilkes-Barre Pennsylvania when this film came out. That's when ushers were ushers! I must have seen the picture 30 times while working. The picture was not popular at the time -- and I had a heck of a time understanding it. But I do remember being fascinated by the scenery. The film was initially promoted as "Pandora and the Flying Dutchman" -- but when it came to the Paramount, they changed the name to "The Loves of Pandora". I have no clue why that change was made -- but I remember that the revised title as it appeared on the screen was sort of "home made" and not of the quality of a new film. Were they experimenting with changing the name to get more patrons? I have not read anything about this anywhere on the internet. I have always been curious about this picture and intend to rent it to see it now that I'm 75 years old and may understand it at this stage of my life -- a full 58 years after seeing it at the Paramount.
This tragic legendary story of the Flying Dutchman is expertly woven into a wonderful drama about the tale of a beautiful but spoiled destructive lover, night club singer Pandora Reynolds, the beautiful femme fatal played by Ava Gardner. Already giving her hand in marriage to racing car driver Stephen Cameron played by Nigel Patrick she meets the mystical owner of a strange yacht, played outstandingly by James Mason, which is anchored in the port off Esperanza Spain. She is immediately attracted to him and finds a new meaning to her life abandoning her selfish, spiteful deceit with her past life and her other suitors including jealous bull fighter Mario Cabre who kills Mason not knowing he has immortality and where Mason then shows up at a bullfight shocking the performing Cabre, and distracting him so, that he mortally wounded by an attacking bull.
Harold Warrender as archaeologist Geoffrey Fielding provides a brilliant narration of this story throughout the movie and holds it together with gentleman expertise.
The final part of this movie is absolutely moving with the fatal love scene between Mason and Gardner culminating in the cracked hour glass in which they succumb to their mortal qualities in a storm where their lives are consumed and he is released from his imposed curse of wandering the seven seas for an eternity until he could find a woman who was prepared to die for him. This movie was too far ahead of it's time to be fully appreciated by the audiences of the day.
This superb story and direction by Albert Lewin makes it a lost classic. Bring it back.
Albert Lewin's 1951 movie injects the Flying Dutchman legend into an upper-class English-speaking community in a small port in 1930s Spain. Ava Gardner, never more beautiful and just about to emerge as a star, is the Pandora of the title, a night-club singer and femme fatale, engaged to be married to a gentlemanly racing car driver (Nigel Patrick), but with a hotheaded bullfighter (Mario Cabré) eager to win her.
Enter the Flying Dutchman, Hendrick van der Zee, trying to find a woman willing to give up her life for him so he can gain release from his eternal roving of the seas. James Mason's performance as Hendrick is one of the main salvations of the movie. With his grace, good looks and wonderfully expressive voice, he is able to give credibility to situations and lines that would be fatal for other actors.
But the film's prime asset is its visual richness. At a straightforward level there is lovely Mediterranean scenery, and some great action sequences, notably the flamenco dancing, land-speed record, and bullfight scenes. Then there are quite a few references to surreal art, matching the surreal nature of the film, such as Hendrick's Chirico-like painting of Pandora, and a remarkable shot of her, lying on her back with the profile of her face in close-up, like a Dali painting. (The film is set on the Costa Brava, near Dali's home town of Cadaques.) And throughout, there is Jack Cardiff's creative camerawork in beautiful technicolor. These visual qualities outweigh such flaws as an intrusive voice-over, and the stress laid on the - for me - irrelevant "Moving Finger" quatrain from the Rubaiyat.
There is much to enjoy in this legendary tale. The story is well told and quickly grabs the viewer. I thought the Spanish setting was perfect and the land speed record and bullfighting scenes in the main convincingly shot. The extraordinary use of Technicolor gives the whole picture an almost dream like ethereal look and many scenes have an almost surreal quality. The whole cast are splendid with Ava Gardner particularly spellbinding - I can't think of any actress today who could carry her role as convincingly.
I like to see giddy romantic movies where those on screen lives beyond my wildest dreams, or the wildest dreams of most people. A perfectly delicious and contentedly cruel Pandora (Ava Gardner) here lives the great life, she has both the world land speed record holder and Spain's champion bullfighter after her, both of whom she treats callously. She's a heart-breaker with more than one suicide under her belt no doubt. She lives in Esperanza in Southern Spain, where near dusk there are soul-stirring pine-silhouetted coastlines, with turquoise beams from littoral white-sanded patches mesmerising. Though cruel she's not stupid, she's definitely perceptive emotionally and intellectually, perhaps she may be termed an ethical egoist, or Randian. In any case a very interesting character.
The central message of the film which is very potent is that, "The measure of love is what one is willing to give up for it". For The Flying Dutchman, his Lazarus-like wandering of the globe can only be stopped by his falling in love with a woman who is prepared to die for him.
The movie tries to portray itself as quite clever but at times falters, with a classics professor who cannot pronounce "Phoenician", and quotations from the Ruba'iyat that are a little screwy in terms of context. Additionally the Dutchman's explanation of his painting, which is a clear Di Chirico pastiche (something of a directorial trait following the Gauguin pastiche in The Moon and the Sixpence), sounds less than authoritative. Pandora's response to the Dutchman quoting the ending of Matthew Arnold's Dover Beach suggests that she hadn't fully grasped it, and he only half-grasped.
On the other hand Marius Goring, who is underused, gets a good line from Webster's The Duchess of Malfi: "I know death hath ten thousand several doors / For men to take their exits; and 'tis found / They go on such strange geometrical hinges, / You may open them both ways" It probably helps if you understand that the last line is a reference to suicide versus involuntary death, which requires Dover Notes for me, and perhaps most viewers! Statues recovered from the sea remind one of the beautiful Artemision Bronze, hauled out of the Med during the era in which the movie is set. Archaeologist Geoffrey Fielding is a rather odd sort, buried amongst books and inscriptions and bizarrely aloof from the tempestuous desires of the other characters, though not out of ignorance.
The occasional pseudo-literacy is perhaps at one with what is a Technicolor delirium, a film that maintains its giddiness throughout. And yet although the film is quite the most outrageous love story, Lewin does provide a brief counterpoint, when John Laurie's mechanic, quite wonderfully cocks a toast to Sheila's Sims' Janet when she epically denounces Pandora's way of life at a celebratory dinner.
A feature of Technicolor films, which is always nice to see, is that the directors generally didn't take colour for granted. One trick to show off the Technicolor wares is to have grandiose flower arrangements in the movies, here in Pandora's home. I think the green-gold lining of her cloak is an unusual colour that really ravished the screen. Actually the film is rather erotic at one point (although Fielding's description of the full moon as erotic at one point is quite titter-worthy, mainly due to delivery), just after said cloak is jettisoned and Pandora swims out to the Dutchman's yacht, naked as the day she was born.
The scenes that will remain in my head the most are probably the shots of revelry (coming after the Laurie toast). I think there's something quite Elysian about them, transporting even. The movie manages despite many absurdities (the Dutchman has a 17th century photograph) to hold together well, even with the central absurdity, which is that the love that Pandora has for Hendrik van der Zee, is basically groundless, we're never even shown how it came about.
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.
.... cause ,though a bit too long,"Pandora" is an unique film .It is part of those movies in which love refutes everything ,including space and time.It is continuously constructed and when it's over we have the strange feeling of having come full circle.
"Pandora" is wrapped in mystery and it renewed the genre which "Peter Ibbetson "and "portrait of Jennie" had pioneered in the thirties and late forties which "Somewhere in Time" (based on a Richard Matheson novel) would continue in the eighties.
Ava Gardner,the most beautiful woman of that era (and for me the most beautiful woman of all time) is ideally cast as the female lead.Who else could play such a gorgeous creature ?James Mason gives a tormented heartrending performance.
Albert Lewin made few movies but the best of them (the picture of Dorian Gray" "the private Affairs of Bel-Ami" ) are worth seeking out.The only real horror is "Saadia" which even Michel Simon could not redeem.
Ava Gardner and James Mason would play another legendary couple (real this time):Francis-Joseph and Elisabeth of Austria.("Mayerling",Terence Young,1968)
You must make your own mind up here. This a rare movie but classic discovery. James Mason will disturb you as the Flying Dutchman. Ava Gardnar tries to be the star but Mason will remove you into the make believe world, that is the quality of this movie.
We don't see Mason for a while and we see Gardner a lot but this is a treat for the reasons that movies were made for. Its just beautiful and other comments like 'sentimental' or 'pretentious' are really stupid here.
This is great cinema like it should be. Of course nonesense but this is a world created successfully by the celluloid which is the whole purpose. Brilliant.
Albert Lewin's independently produced and directed UK film PANDORA AND THE FLYING DUTCHMAN (1951) is one of the most ethereal and haunting love stories ever filmed. Lewin directs with a keen vision and doesn't often stray from the ethereal atmosphere, to the viewers delight. We get truly superb performances by the entire cast, particularly Ava Gardner, who delivers a heart-felt and very memorable performance. Not to mention the other-worldly photography, which is beautifully shot by two-time Oscar winner, the master cinematographer, Jack Cardiff (BLACK NARCISSUS,THE RED SHOES). Another major addition to this film is the musical score by classical composer Alan Rawsthorne, which is dream-like and uplifting, yet blended with a sense of melancholy. The score also blends poetically with the other-worldly visual richness to extraordinary effect. Fans of classic fantasy films are sure to be delighted. Highly recommended.
Well, this has been on my most-wanted list for years now and it didn't disappoint me. What a lovely, romantic, ethereal and strange movie. James Mason is the Dutchman of the title, who murdered his beloved wife hundreds of years ago when he thought she had been unfaithful (she hadn't). He is doomed to sail the Seven Seas until he can find a woman willing to die for him. That woman appears as Pandora Reynolds, played by a ravishing Ava Gardner. Pandora entrances every man she meets but something is missing in her life, and her relationship with Mason's Hendrik brings her to learn the meaning of undying love and the sacrifices we might make. Occasionally the film lapses into pretension, thinking it's a bit clever for itself. The voice-over jars a bit at times, and some of the dialogue is very flowery and oh-so-mystical. But it's still a great film because it creates an atmosphere so unlike any other. I believe the print is in major need of restoration because I can't fathom how a Jack Cardiff-photographed film could look so poor in some places (Mason's teeth etc). It's very romantic, and I loved the flashback to when Mason killed his beautiful wife. It really shouldn't work, because it's very dramatic and a bit too orchestrated, but it does because Mason's acting is so terrific. I swear I love him more every time I see him.
Ave Gardener and James Mason are perfectly cast for this epic unfolding and exploration of pure love. The love which is realised contrasts with and exceeds the self centred manifestations demonstrated by the other characters (who are colourful and vivid) and in its nobility and apparent brevity proves that context is what lends meaning to life. The final scenes are wonderfully free from restraining causes and effects with a judgement of love from....?* validating us all. The colours of the production is as intense as the mythic setting for the story and helps the suspension of disbelief. The setting is not of the same importance to the story as Shangri-la to the plot of 'Beyond the Blue Horizon' which explores similar issues of a man exploring a context to give meaning to what he is or could be. These are both aspects of the question we all eventually ask ourselves. * Insert your own conceptualisation of the divine here.
This is definitely not a movie for everybody. It is a bit of an odd number, a romantic love story as well as a fantasy intended for for adults. Hollywood, which, these days, usually produces movies intended for audiences in high school or, at most, their early 20s, doesn't do films like this one. Neither, for that matter, does much of anybody else. In fact, About the only other example of this unusual genre that comes immediately to mind is the haunting "A Matter of Life and Death", produced in Britain by Powell and Pressburger.
The story revolves around the appearance of a Dutch yachtsman among a group of wealthy expatriates residing in a Spanish seaside village called "Esperanza" (Hope). The Dutchman, played without the least trace of a Dutch accent by the extremely English James Mason, calls himself "Hendryk van der Zee" (literally, "Henry of the Sea"). He turns out to be none other than the legendary Flying Dutchman. Every seven years he is permitted to re-appear on land briefly, to attempt to find a woman who will agree to die for him, thus freeing him from his curse of sailing the seas for eternity.
Those who's taste in movies runs to to things like "Speed II" and "Prom" will probably not like this one. However, those whose taste is a bit more mature, and who appreciate the sort of material that requires a moderate degree of erudition, might appreciate this moody, atmospheric, beautifully photographed and expertly staged story.
It seems churlish to begin with a cavil but this print was preceded by an on-screen message that it was a 'restored' version, only to be followed by what looked like a washed-out third or fourth generation print. It may well have been Lewin's intention to shoot in dull tones in 1950 but somehow I tend to doubt it. There's an immediate nod to A Matter Of Life And Death both in the central couple - one dead, one living - and the use of Harold Warrender, a 'scientific' type who complements perfectly Roger Livesey's 'doctor' and also serves as narrator. As for the hokum that masquerades as plot the less said the better, in this case it is definitely a case of Style not Content. Gardner is so gorgeous she doesn't really need to do anything else yet by 1950 MGM had moulded her into a fairly half-decent actress and Mason was well up to handling any real acting that needed doing. On the other hand Sheila Sim demonstrates yet again why her screen career consisted of a mere ten movies, just as well she married Dickie Attenborough otherwise she may have starved to death. Dorothy Parker wrote only a handful of lyrics, notably I Wished On The Moon, but another is performed by Gardner here, How Am I To Know, and performed well. Apart from this it's the visuals and symbolism that are the main interest and in a decent print they would have been stunning.
This film is a reworking of the legend of the Flying Dutchman. A wild and slightly crazy lady (Ava Gardner) is flighty and, well, rather nuts. When a sailboat nears her home in Spain, she impulsively swam naked out to the boat and meets a man (James Mason) after she wraps herself up in a bit of canvas. He seems VERY preoccupied and moody--and is working on a painting that looks a bit like Gardner (though I didn't think it looked nearly as close as the film said). She is clearly intrigued by this new man and wants to spend much time with him.
A bit later, Gardner's friend (Nigel Patrick) shows the moody dude something written in 17th century Dutch--and Mason seems to be able to read it with ease. That's because it is, in fact, his own personal memoirs! It seems he's the famous Flying Dutchman and the paper explains how he came to be cursed to wander the seas alone for eternity--unless, and this is weird, he can get a lady to agree to die for him. You also learn that Gardner is some sort of reincarnated version of the lady Mason murdered--hence, cursing him to his fate.
"Pandora and the Flying Dutchman" is a lovely film, as the color stock used is quite nice and makes the leading lady (Gardner) look her best. However, it's far from a perfect film and it wasn't exactly my type of film--even though I love older films. The film has two problems for me. First, it's an odd choice having the British actor James Mason play a person who is Dutch. It just didn't seem convincing--much as I love Mason in films. Second, the film took brooding to new heights--with LOTS of pained looks. And, third, the film seemed a bit talky--and I would have preferred a bit more action and romance. Worth seeing but far from a must-see.
By the way, wasn't the murder a bit reminiscent of "Othello"? Just thinking...
Well, call me "histrionic" (hahahahaha), but... I'm watching it just now for perhaps the third or fourth time since I was seven or eight years old. I was dumbstruck by it then. I guess she was, too. I met her 20 years later. She'd literally made herself into this character. The woman men will do anything for. We took her marriage apart then, and took one of mine apart 15 years later.
Well, she wanted to be stimulated, and I evidently did it as well as anyone for a time, even though I was no James Mason, Clark Gable or even Leslie Howard.
Today, I am a devotee of direct, wordless experience. And there is much to be directly experienced right =now=. "And to have found her faithless!" So I "killed all that I loved," and shut myself off from that much life after so many years of trying to find it again. "Faith is a lie, and God himself is chaos!" "He will find no woman faithful and fair." "Would I sail alone 'til doomsday?"
Bewitched (or =something=) by all this drama, I suffered as he did for 35 years... until I put my wordless consciousness into the oven and used this film again to be "there" with her.
Regardless of what anyone else thinks, P&TFD is a ten for me =personally=, even if it is a product of its time and a pretty fair attempt to follow in the footsteps of George Bernard Shaw. The melancholy may dearly love it. But those who need to work their way through a "timeless love" may find the keys to their prison cells right here.
Funny thing about the legend of the Flying Dutchman is that nobody knows what it exactly is all about. Different stories about the history of the alleged ghost ship exist and different names of its captain also float around. Hendrik van der Zee, as he is being called in this movie, is one of them.
This is a movie I just can't really put my finger on. I don't understand what this movie is trying to tell really. It's hard to label this movie as well. It's a romantic drama with fantasy elements in it as well. It doesn't have an everyday story and also some not so everyday characters in it. Guess the movie is about love and human nature but for me it wasn't very appealing all. The main characters are quite repulsive ones, of which the female deliberately hurt other persons feelings to get what she want and the man killed the woman he loved out of sheer jealousy. Why should we care about a love story between these two. Of course the characters redeem themselves but no, I just wasn't drawn into it.
It's also a rather slowly paced movie. Some excitement wouldn't had harmed the movie. Not that it's dull but its slow pace just makes the movie drag on in parts. You have the feeling that the movie could had easily been halve an hour shorter. The movie does still takes some nice turns though, making this movie all in all still a perfectly watchable one.
The movie is also good looking. It's a period piece, shot in color. It actually was the first motion color picture Ava Gardner appeared in. It still obviously wan't the most expensive movie to shoot, judging by its visual qualities but it helps that movie that it was being shot at location rather than in sound-studio somewhere.
Ava Gardner and James Mason are both obviously some capable actors but because I just wasn't drawn into the movie and it's story I also didn't really got into their characters. Can't blame the actors for that really, since they are obviously doing the best they can with the material given to them.
By all means its not a badly made and constructed movie, I had just wished it's execution would had been a bit more lively and perhaps also some more fun. The movie is being mostly serious of tone, making this movie more heavy than it really should be.
Many a man might give up just about anything for a tumble with Ava Gardner. But what would Ava give up, would she give it all up for a man she truly loved?
That questioned is answered if not to everyone's complete satisfaction in Pandora and the Flying Dutchman. Ava's character of Pandora Reynolds, cabaret singer and jet-setter is a trial run for her later role of Lady Brett Ashley in The Sun Also Rises.
She's a cool one Ava, one guy commits suicide over her, Nigel Patrick trashes a perfectly good car to prove something to her, even Harrold Warrender who has a sort of Van Helsing like role is not immune to her beauty and charm.
But the guy who's really taken with her is James Mason, the legendary Flying Dutchman. He's been cursed for about 300 years to sail the seas in search of a woman who would lay her life down for him. He gets to port once every seven years to search and he's put in on the northern coast of Spain this time.
The color photography by Jack Cardiff is nice, the scenery is almost as beautiful as Ava. But I think for this film to work, a more innocent type rather than the worldly Ms. Gardner would have to have been written into the story.
For viewers from the age of the rock video, this movie is slow, and the direction is poor. But it's worth hanging with it. It will catch you up in a story that is gripping and ethereal. Ava Gardner, one of the sexiest stars in the history of Hollywood, is at her sexiest, and a young James Mason is at his best.
In 1930, in the Seaport of Esperanza, on the Mediterranean coast of Spain, the fishermen find the bodies of a couple trapped in the net of their fishing vessel. The historian Geoffrey Fielding (Harold Warrender) recalls the beautiful, selfish and spoiled American singer Pandora Reynolds (Ava Gardner), who used to break the heart of her lovers. When Pandora is proposed by the British racing car pilot Stephen Cameron (Nigel Patrick), she demands that he drives his car off the cliffs to prove his love to her. Stephen does what Pandora has asked him and they schedule their wedding on September 3rd.
When Pandora sees a yacht anchored in the bay, she impulsively swims to the vessel and meets the Dutch Hendrik van der Zee (James Mason) alone without any crew on board. Pandora immediately feels attracted by the mysterious Hendrik and introduces him to her friends. When Jeffrey finds a manuscript from the Seventeenth Century of the Flying Dutchman, he asks Hendrik to help him in the translation. Jeffrey leans the Hendrik apparently is the Flying Dutchman, a captain that stabbed to death his innocent wife believing that she was unfaithful to him. He is sentenced to death and his soul is cursed by God, doomed to sail alone for the eternity, unless he find s a woman that loves him so much that should be capable to die for him. Jeffrey is afraid that Pandora might be this woman and presses her to marry Stephen as soon as possible.
"Pandora and the Flying Dutchman" is an adorable timeless romance based on the legend of the Flying Dutchman. The beauty of Ava Gardner is awesome in the role of a woman that does not love any man until she finds the doomed captain Hendrik van der Zee, falling in love with him and becoming capable of an ultimate act of love. James Mason has an extraordinary performance, with solid and dramatic lines. The costumes of Ava Gardner are very beautiful, highlighting her elegance. The cinematography is wonderful, but unfortunately the DVD released by the Brazilian Distributor Platina Filmes is only of reasonable quality. My vote is nine.
The story of the Flying Dutchman is given a sumptuous production here, directed by Albert Lewin. Set in the 1930s, Hendrick van der Zee, the captain of a yacht, appears in the Spanish seaport of Esperanza. There he meets the mysterious and beautiful Pandora, a man magnet who has every man in the village, it seems in love with her. Pandora herself has never been in love, but there is incredible chemistry between her and Hendrick. Hendrick is soon found to be the 17th century Flying Dutchman, cursed to wander the world forever, unless he meets a woman willing to die for him.
Lewin does a good job both on the screenplay and direction, though both have flaws, and the music is a little overpowering at times. The film moves slowly in places. But the casting is wonderful. The only woman who could have played Pandora in 1951 was Ava Gardner, stunningly beautiful and sexy with that low, husky voice and incredible face. And let's not forget her figure which was dressed in dazzling costumes throughout the film. James Mason is handsome and mysterious as Hendrik, and the entire production is gorgeous to look at.
If you're an Ava Gardner or James Mason fan, don't miss this marvelous showcase for their talents. And do they make a fantastic looking couple or what?
A beautiful 1951 fantasy. James Mason plays the Flying Dutchman-Hendrik van der Zee--who is doomed to sail the seas until he finds a woman who will die for him. He meets gorgeous Pandora Reynolds (Ava Gardner) who happens to look just like his dead wife...but he won't tell her he's a ghost. Naturally she falls for him.
The plot is predictable and silly (even for a fantasy) and the dialogue is terrible--people make speeches and verbalize ALL their feelings. The pace is also way too slow and they throw in a silly subplot about bullfighter Juan Motalvo (badly played by Mario Cabre). But the film is absolutely beautiful to watch. The colors are deep and rich and every frame is like a beautiful picture. Gardner and Mason were young and look impossibly beautiful. Some of their shots took my breath away! It was shot in Spain and the settings were gorgeous. Also it's beautifully directed and has a wonderful score. Gardner and Mason are as good as anyone can be in this and everybody else--save for Cabre--are very good. So it's beautiful to watch but the silly dialogue (no one talks like the people here) and slow pace made this hard to sit through.
The story is pure schlock, but there's enough striking imagery (including the stars) to make this worth watching. This is basically an arty Woman's Picture shot in the style of the Spanish surrealist, with burning blue skies, dark browns and bright yellows, and lonely statues standing sentry at the seashore. You know what you're in for when the Rubaiyat turns up in a drowned man's hand. It's a little clunky and it's not exactly surrealism (expensive to film because you have to build the deformed stuff) but it's an honest attempt to do something like it without the cheap trick of montage, and Lewin gets off some striking compositions. Man Ray did the paintings.
The title tells the story: a cursed sailor from the past (Mason), doomed to sail the oceans forever, finds himself drawn to modern Spain, where a singing American playgirl (Gardner) is tormenting male expats, including an English race car driver and a local matador while an archaeologist investigates. No playgirl ever came from Indianapolis, but never mind. It's surrealism, like putting the Dali museum in Florida. This Indiana Pandora is unable to love...until she discovers that the sailor, who is also a sort of Sunday painter (he gets bored out there by himself) has worked up a portrait of her sight unseen.
I liked this movie in spite of myself, but the truth is its success depends entirely on the casting, not the writing. Like LAURA, it depends on having a beautiful female lead. It needs one even more than usual because Gardner's idea of how to play an enigma is about as credible as the idea of a playgirl from Indianapolis. (In France, where they like beautiful things that don't make any sense, Gardner's performance was celebrated.) Like LAURA it also needs a moody, haunted, self-loathing yet attractive male lead who can play solo scenes and put over brooding emotions in close-up. Gardner and Mason certainly fit this bill and they help make this movie a success on balance. Indeed, no one but Mason could possibly have played this role. You certainly don't confuse this movie with anything else, except maybe VERTIGO (which rips some of it off).
A British fantasy-drama draws inspiration from the legend of the Flying Dutchman, a ghost-ship can never approach port and is doomed to sail forever in the sea, and revamped by writer/director Albert Lewin into a lachrymose romance between a Dutch captain, the selfsame Flying Dutchman, Hendrick van der Zee (Mason), and a drop-dead gorgeous Pandora Reynolds (Gardner), in a fictitious port town Esperanza, Spain.
Pandora is surrounded by admirers, some of them are expatriate Britons, one of them even gulps a poisoned wine and kills himself in the occasion of the first anniversary their acquaintance, to the dismay of her indifference, and she doesn't even care to raise an eyebrow. However, an unremitting British racing driver Stephen Cameron (Patrick) almost wins her over by pushing his state-of-the- art racing car over the cliff just to prove his undying love, because Pandora calculates the measurement of love by how much a man can give up for loving her (soon she will discover what she has to give up for love as well). They are engaged! But there is an "almost", it is clear as day that she doesn't love Stephen, or any other man, including the spunky torero Juan Montalvo (Cabré).
Can she ever love somebody after being created as a perfect specimen of female desirability? Only in the fantasy, maybe, so one night, beckoned by a mysterious ship anchored near the beach, Pandora swims to the ship and finds Hendrick, the sole being on board, is uncannily drawing a painting (a work made by Lewin's friend Man Ray) with exact her image, there are connections between them far beyond this life, as it will reveal, Hendrick is a perpetual wandering soul on the sea, under the curse that only a woman who is willing to die for him because of uncontaminated, unconditional love, can he be set free from the eternity of exile for his blasphemy and spur-of-the- moment sin. Here, the whole foolish and intrinsically jaundiced perspective of treating beautiful women as the ultimate sacrifice to assuage men's guilty over their own idiotic wrongdoings, is ghastly behind our times, which tolls the death knell for this otherwise handsomely and picturesquely shot piece of supernatural romance in Technicolor by cinematographer Jack Cardiff, its close cousin should be William Dieterle's PORTRAIT OF JENNIE (1948).
The opening, has already given away the forbidding end, and the film is mostly narrated by Pandora's friend, a British archaeologist Geoffrey Fielding (Warrender), who is in the safe age range to stay as a bystander with a morally superior eye, and sometimes by Hendrick himself, to cursorily introduce his past to viewers, those orations are ornate and over-literary, James Mason has been ill-fitted for the role, dour, ponderous and a complete misfit for Ms. Gardner's glamour turn, but as it always the case, whether it is Clark Gable in John Ford's MOGAMBO (1953), or Richard Burton in John Huston's THE NIGHT OF THE IGUANA (1964), Gardner can hardly find an equal worth her divine beauty and unrestrained candour, she is Pandora in real life, that's a tailor- made role of her no doubt, but the movie only resounds with a disappointing meh, no torrid flamenco, record-breaking car-racing, or corrida extravaganza can save the damp squib.
This film is set among a group of expatriates, mostly British, living in Esperanza, a small fishing port in pre-Civil War Spain. The central character, Pandora Reynolds, is a beautiful young American woman who is very much the femme fatale of this group. Fatale, in the quite literal meaning of that word, because a young man commits suicide out of unrequited love for her near the beginning of the film. The cold-hearted Pandora, however, is left quite unmoved by this incident.
Pandora is the fiancée of Stephen, a young British racing-driver, whom she also treats cruelly. In one scene she persuades him to push his beloved racing-car over a cliff in order to prove his love for her. She has another admirer in the form of Juan, an arrogant, swaggering bullfighter, but she herself seems to be fascinated by Hendrik van der Zee, a mysterious Dutchman who arrives in the town on board a large and luxurious yacht which seems to have no crew. Van der Zee is, in fact, the legendary Flying Dutchman. In this version of the legend, he is condemned to wander the seas for ever for the crime of murdering his wife, a crime provoked by groundless jealousy. He is an Othello figure who, unlike Shakespeare's character, cannot escape his burden of remorse through suicide. He is, however, permitted to come ashore for six months every seven years, and will be freed from his curse if during those months he can find a woman who is prepared to give her life for him.
I was surprised that several reviewers, both on this board and elsewhere, have commented on the film's lush colour; there is evidently more than one print in existence, because in the version that I saw on British television the colour was very poor; the night scenes almost looked as though they had been shot in monochrome. The quality of the acting is rather mixed. The best contribution is from James Mason as the brooding, tormented Hendrik. Mason's acting often had a resigned, world-weary air about it, and this quality serves him well here as he makes Hendrik seem a tragic figure whom the audience can pity despite his crime. I also liked Harold Warrender (an actor I had not come across previously) as the rational, scholarly Gerald, the older man who acts as the narrator of the tale. The other characters were less satisfactory. Juan, the hot-blooded, violently passionate Spaniard, is too much of a stereotype to be wholly convincing, and Stephen is a rather weak figure. As for Pandora, she never really comes to life. Although Ava Gardner, with her striking beauty, was physically right for the part, I wondered whether she had enough depth as an actress to portray the character successfully. Perhaps I am being unfair to her and the real fault lies with the script; it may be that no actress could have succeeded in making Pandora convincing. The contrast between the heartless Pandora of the earlier part of the film and the noble, self-sacrificing heroine of the later scenes is too great to enable us to perceive her as a rounded character.
This is one of the more ambitious British films of the fifties, an attempt with the aid of an exotic foreign location and a glamorous Hollywood star to duplicate the success of American supernatural fantasies such as "Portrait of Jennie" and "It's a Wonderful Life". In my opinion, however, it does not succeed nearly as well as either of those films, both of which, despite their fantastic plots, are deeply satisfying on an emotional level. There is something much less satisfactory about "Pandora and the Flying Dutchman". It is essentially a rather cold and shallow film with a cold and shallow young woman at its centre. Even her final sacrificial gesture (a gesture which, it should be noted, involves yet another betrayal of the hapless Stephen) cannot make us either believe in her or sympathise with her. 5/10