In 1787 prisoners from London's Newgate Gaol are to be shipped to New South Wales. Hugh Tallant is an American medical student whom, we learn at sea, was falsely imprisoned. Because of his attempt to escape, evil Captain Gilbert decides to return him to England on charges of mutiny. Events, including arrival of plague, keep Tallant busy in New South Wales. Written by
Ed Stephan <email@example.com>
A good premise: a gaggle of British convicts, male and female, are shipped to the new penal colony in Australia, circa 1780s. But while this story calls for great seascapes, Paramount gives us ship-in-a-soundstage scenes which are cramped and unconvincing. Even the later sequences in Australia have a "backlot" quality to them. Note the dark, sexually-ambiguous undertones in the performance of ship's captain, James Mason. Alan Ladd, who, like Burt Lancaster and Mel Gibson, liked to suffer in his movies, here gets to be flogged and later keelhauled. His flogging in "Two Years Before the Mast" is much more vivid but his keelhauling in "Botany Bay" marks the only time a Hollywood leading man has suffered this particular kind of punishment. Curiously, despite his penchant for "beefcake" scenes, Ladd remains fully clothed for this sequence. Perhaps the fear was that audiences would understandably expect a shirtless Ladd to suffer many cuts and abrasions on his bare torso while being scraped under the ship's keel, and Paramount didn't want to see its handsome leading man forced to look, even temporarily, disfigured or damaged.
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