Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Spanish Main (1945)

Director: Frank Borzage

Starring: Paul Henreid, Maureen O'Hara, Walter Slezak, Binnie Barnes, John Emrey, Barton MacLane

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Loving her . . . taming her . . . called for all his reckless daring!

Plot: Laurent van Horn is the leader of a band of Dutch refugees on a ship seeking freedom in the Carolinas, when the ship is wrecked on the coast of Cartagene. governed by Don Juan Alvarado, Spanish ruler. Alvarado has Laurent thrown in prison, but the latter escapes, and five-years later is a pirate leader. He poses as the navigator on a ship in which Contessa Francesca, daughter of a Mexican noble, is traveling on her way to marry Alvarado, whom she has never seen. Laurent's pirates capture the ship and Francesa, in order to save another ship, gives her hand-in-marriage to Laurent, who sails her to the pirate hideout. This irks the jealous Anne Bonney and,also, Captain Benjamin Black, who was already irked, anyway. They overpower Laurent and send Francesa to Alvarado, and then Mario du Billar, trusted right-hand man, makes a deal to deliver Laurent to Alvarado also.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again? Eh, possibly.

What started off as a ho-hum period love story with buccaneers ended up being an entertaining pirate action adventure that's got a great final half hour. For the first hour it's lots of Maureen O'Hara getting in the way of manly pirate stuff (not really but she's always around) being pissy around her captive and soon-to-be husband, Captain Laurent Van Horn (aka The Barracuda).


It cheeses me off sometimes that there's the cliched aristocratic woman that gets thrown into the mix who catches the eye of the pirate captain who has to 'tame' her. At some point she'll succumb to his scoundrel, yet gentlemanly, ways and then you've got a happy ending. We all know the reality of that is bullshit but that's the convention of most pirate flicks out there so you just have to deal with it. At least in this movie Van Horn has a motive for marrying this broad (outside of his own lustful needs) which takes her away from his enemy, Don Juan Alvarado (delightfully played by Walter Slezak).

But it's the last act of the picture that really takes off with lots of double crosses, intrigue, swordplay and fighting. I suddenly straightened myself up on the couch and took more interest. This seemingly standard pirate flick picked up steam and had me hooked until the end.

There's a pretty damn good sword fight between Van Horn and his former friend who betrayed him, Mario (John Emery). I put it up on YouTube so you could see it in its entirety. Watch for the spot where Mario waits a beat for Van Horn to strike him (at the :45 mark). Outside of that actor's misstep, it's a much better than average sword fight.

See how long the camera stays on the actors? You get to SEE an actual fight instead of the seizure-quick edited fights we get nowadays. That shit pisses me off. I've seen many times in DVD extras where the actors talk time and time again about how many weeks or months they spent working on the choreography OF ONE FREAKIN' FIGHT only to see the sequence cut up into a gazillion edits with barely enough frames for your eyes to focus on and enjoy it. It's insulting to the actors who worked so hard for it.

Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised to see this 1945 flick in Technicolor (it was RKO's first). The colors pop off the screen and it looks gorgeous. The acting is pretty good, Alvarado gets a little too silly and there's a bit too much "hey, look, there's a woman on board the ship" goings-on with O'Hara but the ending really made this a potential re-watch. Unless you can find it online somewhere, set your DVRs to keep an eye out for it on TCM. I dug it.

No comments:

Post a Comment