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In a village of Huguenot refugees, Jonathon Standing is exiled by his father to a nearby penal colony for his improper relationship with a married woman. This penal colony is then invaded by pirates who force Jonathan to lead them back to his village, convinced that it contains a great treasure.Written by
dinky-4 of Minneapolis
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Good, colorful period adventure from Hammer Studios is also a curiosity - a landlocked pirate movie! The high seas are nowhere in sight in a tale set on the Isle of Devon in the late 17th century. People known as "Huguenots" have fled persecution, and set up a peaceable community. Young Jonathon Standing (Kerwin Mathews), found guilty of adultery and sentenced to 15 years in a nearby penal colony, ultimately falls into the clutches of a pirate gang who are determined - nay, hellbent - on discovering whatever treasures this island may hold.
"The Pirates of Blood River" is nothing great, but it thoroughly entertains the viewer for a well paced 87 minutes. It's got plenty of effective ingredients: action set pieces, rousing orchestral music (by Gary Hughes), wonderful widescreen photography, and a reasonably simple plot (screenplay by John Hunter and director John Gilling, based on a story by Jimmy Sangster). Said plot includes a theme of religious fervor, and how some people, like Jonathons' father Jason (Andrew Keir), allow this to completely dictate how they live their lives.
Jonathon is no innocent - he WAS guilty, after all - but he's still quite a likable chap, and one may admire him for attempting to take a stand. The villains are appropriately despicable, with the great Sir Christopher Lee taking center stage as a French accented pirate leader named LaRoche. Among his crew are Mr. Hench (Peter Arne), Brocaire (Oliver Reed), and Mack (Michael Ripper). This excellent cast helps to add life to the familiar but agreeable proceedings. (That's Desmond "Q" Llewelyn in the small role of Tom Blackthorne.)
The action is well executed, although the final battle is a little anticlimactic because there was a sequence earlier in the picture that was more intense. There's one show stopping sword fight where Arne and Reed duel (while blindfolded) over a woman. And there's a mild bit of gore, although scenes involving piranha attacks involve little more than splashing water and a bit of blood.
Fun stuff, for Hammer fans and lovers of pirate cinema.
Seven out of 10.
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