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The Ebb-Tide (1998)

TV-PG | | Adventure | TV Movie 29 March 1998
A down-on-his-luck sea captain accepts an assignment on a rickety boat with a mysterious cargo and a questionable crew. As disaster befalls disaster, the crew finds itself on an uncharted ... See full summary »


Nicholas Renton


Simon Donald, Lloyd Osbourne (novel) | 1 more credit »




Cast overview:
Robbie Coltrane ... Capt. Chisholm
Chris Barnes Chris Barnes ... Bunch
Steven Mackintosh ... Swanson
John Adewole John Adewole ... Restaurant Owner
Alain Bourgoin Alain Bourgoin ... Marine Lieutenant
Philippe Smolikowski Philippe Smolikowski ... French Naval Officer
Jude Akuwudike ... Fakeeva
Yomi A. Michaels Yomi A. Michaels ... Taveeta
Sean Scanlan Sean Scanlan ... Strickland
Daniel de la Falaise Daniel de la Falaise ... Telegram Operator
Michael Mellinger ... Victor Kleist
Simon Donald ... Dr. Lewis
Nigel Terry ... Ellstrom
Meera Simhan ... Kuria (as Meera Narasimhan)


A down-on-his-luck sea captain accepts an assignment on a rickety boat with a mysterious cargo and a questionable crew. As disaster befalls disaster, the crew finds itself on an uncharted island with a mad ex-sea captain who lives with a mute woman who threatens to kill them all. Written by John Sacksteder <jsackste@bellsouth.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

disaster | mute | island | boat | madman | See All (7) »






Official Sites:

A&E's Ebb-Tide page.





Release Date:

29 March 1998 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Mar Bravio See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Version of Ebb Tide (1915) See more »

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User Reviews

The tide went out, and forgot to come back...
13 February 2004 | by F Gwynplaine MacIntyreSee all my reviews

'The Ebb-Tide' is based on a novel by Robert Louis Stevenson and his American-born stepson Lloyd Osbourne. This 1998 TV version features some stunning location shooting and some impressive art direction, notably in regard to the Victorian three-masted ship (on which the leading actors spend much of their screen time) and some of the interior sequences. Regrettably, the actors are all resolutely speaking and behaving like denizens of 1998. Not for one instant did I believe that the action was taking place in Stevenson's time. This discrepancy is painful throughout the film, but is especially obvious in a dialogue scene in which Nigel Terry sarcastically comments that all the best champagne is French. In the mid-19th century, the time in which this movie is set, *all* champagne was French (a later line of dialogue confirms this) ... but Nigel Terry's characterisation is so resolutely stuck in 1998 that he sounds as if he's sincerely comparing French champagne to the California version rather than being sarky.

Robbie Coltrane (a fine actor in modern-day roles, but with no sense of historical period) puts his Lanarkshire accent to good use as Chisholm, a Scotsman in the South Seas: a disgraced sea captain who ran a ship aground on a reef and killed his passengers and crew. Now he gets a chance to redeem himself by commanding a jinxed vessel with a cargo of champagne. For his crew, he recruits some no-hopers even more desperate than himself: a disaffected murderer named Swanson and an illiterate psychopath named Bunch. (In the latter role, Chris Barnes gives much the best performance in this film.) Also along for the voyage (and doing most of the work) are two native brothers, Fakeeva and Taveeta (extremely impressive performances by two ethnic actors).

No sooner are this motley crew afloat than Chisholm discovers he's been set up for a spot of barratry. Most of the champers hampers in his cargo hold are stocked with empty bottles. Chisholm, his crew and this ship have all got such bad reputations, the owners of the ship just naturally assumed that Chisholm would (once again) sink a vessel underneath himself: this whole voyage is an insurance scam, and the vessel is what we call in Britain a 'coffin ship': put afloat for the sole purpose of being sunk, and to hell with the crew.

Next thing we know, the three white seamen have washed ashore on an uncharted island, with their two black shipmates conveniently lost over the gunwales. This island is run by Ellstrom (Nigel Terry, in one of the worst performances I've ever seen anywhere). Ellstrom is one of those white expatriate monomaniacs out of Joseph Conrad, who doesn't seem to realise he's in the wrong author's book. Ellstrom is sitting on a vast hoard of pearls, but he just seems to have acquired them through sheer magic. We see no pearl beds, no pearl divers, no oysters. White man come, he want pearls, he gettum pearls. There's an incredibly bad scene between Ellstrom and Swanson, in which the two actors fling dozens of pearls at each other as if they were peanuts. Also, all these dozens of pearls are flawless spheres. Nobody in this movie seems to know that a substantial percentage of natural pearls are baroque (irregularly shaped). The spherical pearls you see in jewellers' shops are usually cultured.

There are a couple of intriguing scenes in this movie, spaced between protracted longeurs. One scene at the very end especially impressed me. SPOILERS COMING. A lot of films set in exotic locales feature non-white actors in small roles, as the native bearers or guides who help the white explorers get to some distant objective. Once the action moves to that remote place, the non-white characters are (usually) conveniently killed off or otherwise disposed of. 'The Ebb-Tide' appears to be just one more example of that annoying cliché, with Chisholm's two black seamen drowning during his ship's landfall. Instead, something much more original and unexpected occurs. To say more would ruin the surprise.

MORE SPOILERS COMING. We also get a clever reworking of another cliché that shows up at the climax of many action movies. Villain holds hero at gunpoint, villain squeezes trigger. We hear a gunshot, and then the villain (not the hero) falls dead. Cue the hero's sidekick to enter from the underbrush, holding a smoking firearm. 'The Ebb-Tide' sets up that cliché near the end, in a confrontation between Ellstrom and Chisholm ... but then offers a payoff that's unexpected, and original. 'The Ebb-Tide' is impressive, engaging, and original at several points over its length, but the overall effect is bad. I especially disliked the dull performance by an actress who portrays a mute native girl: she seems to have been put into the movie just to add a female presence to the all-male cast, and to prevent us from speculating about how these lonely sailors stay warm on cold nights. I really wanted to like this movie, but the best I can rate it is 4 out of 10.

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