Before Jamaica was considered the luxurious holiday destination that it is today, the likes of
Before Jamaica was considered the luxurious holiday destination that it is today, the likes of Father Thornton (Davenport) and his wife (played by Isabel Dean) considered the ‘Island In the Sun’ and its inhabitants to be somewhat uncivilized for his wee nippers and decides that it is high time to uproots his family and return to England. With no Easyjet on the horizon (it’s the 1870s) the only way they are getting there is by ship. While on route to the UK, their ship is raided by Spanish pirates led by Captain Chavez (Quinn). After looting the ship, Chavez and first mate Zac (Coburn) are a little miffed to discover that the Thornton children have stowed away on their pirate ship. Whilst most of the crew would prefer to offer the sharks a tasty ‘brunch’, Chavez decides that they must be allowed to stay on board until they can be dropped off in a safe place. As they get to know each other, the Capt’ develops a soft spot for the kids, with special attention geared towards the ten-year-old Emily (Deborah Baxter).
Based on Richard Hughes’ classic 1929 novel, and directed by Alexander Mackendrick (The Ladykillers, Sweet Smell of Success), it is perhaps a little dated for modern tastes and yet it has much to offer as the plot unfolds in unexpected twists and turns. As the film progresses, the kiddies’ mischievous playfulness begins to transform itself into something more sinister.
The superstitious shipmates are given every reason to chuck the little stowaways overboard. Their arrival brings the ship a series of bad luck including the accidental death of one of the kids, the injury of another, the accidental stabbing of a prisoner, a mutiny (every pirate film should have one), and finally, a court trial in which the pirates are accused of the murder. As they say, no good deed goes unpunished.
Along with the exciting action scenes, the beauty of this film is that, unlike most of its genre, the pirates are not portrayed as bloodthirsty sea bandits but are sympathetic, three-dimensional characters. Quinn and Coburn put in fine performances, and the young actress Baxter excels as Emily (think Hayley Mills).
The film is not a faitful adaption of the book and perhaps weakens the storyline as a result. Nevertheless, it makes for an entertaining, innocent swashbuckling adventure.
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