In 18th-century England, the Royal Crown sends Royal Navy Captain Collier and his crew to investigate reports of illegal smuggling and bootlegging in a coastal town where locals believe in Marsh Phantoms.
Peter Graham Scott
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During the 1790s, on the Cornwall coast, local pirates led by Black John shipwreck ships during stormy nights and plunder their cargo.The pirates destroy the pilot lights and light misleading fires to guide the ships in distress towards their doom.The pirates kill the surviving sailors and then plunder the ship's cargo.The local magistrate, Squire Trevenyan is aware of Black John's ship wrecking and smuggling.But he's powerless since Black John knows the Squire's darkest secret and threatens to reveal it.Worse still , Squire Trevenyan's son, Christopher, falls in love with Louise Lejeune, the daughter of a local merchant whom the Squire doesn't approve of.During the day,a daring highwayman known as The Captain robs any stagecoach that ventures through his domain.Squire Trevenyan is under pressure to end the lawlessness in Cornwall.Written by
The title tells all in this second-rate but enjoyable adventure on a popular subject; star Peter Cushing gives it his all, as ever, and he's matched by a larger-than-life performance by Bernard Lee as the chief villain. Still, Cushing's previous collaboration with writer/director Gilling THE FLESH AND THE FIENDS (1959) had proved a lot more substantial (despite being shot in black-and-white).
Anyway, the remaining cast includes veteran George Coulouris, playing a French merchant convicted by squire Cushing as a wrecker, while John Fraser (in the role of the latter's son) and Michele Mercier (as the Frenchman's daughter) comprise the requisite love interest. Other notable characters to figure in the plot are a mysterious highwayman known only as "The Captain" and a young boy who goes by the name of Juma (also the name of the actor!), both of whom start off by being in cahoots with Lee and his gang but gradually change loyalties to emerge heroic by the film's conclusion. The widescreen print I watched (culled from the Region 2 DVD) displays some color fading but is otherwise pretty decent.
In the end, when compared to the similar but superior CAPTAIN CLEGG (1962; with Peter Cushing in the title role) which being a Hammer production is, unsurprisingly, a more horror-oriented venture this is unassuming family fare; two more films in the same vein I'd love to catch up with (both, incidentally, Hammer titles co-starring Christopher Lee) but which have never turned up in my neck of the woods are PIRATES OF BLOOD RIVER (1962; also directed by Gilling) and THE DEVIL-SHIP PIRATES (1964)...
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