Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Raiders of the Seven Seas (1953)

Director: Sidney Salkow

Writers: John O'Dea, Sidney Salkow

Composer: Paul Sawtell

Starring: John Payne, Donna Reed, Gerald Mohr, Lon Chaney Jr., Anthony Caruso, Henry Brandon, Skip Torgerson, Frank DeKova, William Tannen, Christopher Dark, Claire Du Brey, Howard Freeman, Anthony Warde

More info: IMDb

Tagline: A CORSAIR CAPTAIN...A CREW OF ESCAPED CONVICTS...Plundering for Loot and Revenge!

Plot: Barbarossa, a pirate, frees a group of Spanish prisoners and makes them his crew. On a raid, he takes as a prize a Spanish countess, Alida. He has fallen in love with her by the time he arranges for her ransom by the officer who was to marry her. Exposing her intended as a coward and a liar, he goes to ask for her hand but she has escaped, and Barbarossa thinks she is the one who killed his aide, Peg-Leg.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again? No.

I honestly don't get my hopes up for the off-the-beaten-path, lower budget pirate flicks of the 50s and 60s.  The genre's heyday was the 30s and 40s and it seemed that after the wind left their sails that the majority of them were relegated to Saturday matinee kiddie fare...which is fine if you're a kid or you're looking for something to fill the mindless escapism.  It's not really as bad as all that but it's close.  RAIDERS has an OK story with less than OK dialogue, OK performances and the low budget effects like ship models and whatnot. 

Payne does an admirable job as Barbarossa (AKA Red Beard, although his beard is nothing more than a really short goatee) but it's clear by him and a few others that getting a better script with better actors would've helped immensely.  It's funny but I never really thought about Donna Reed (here as Alida) in movies prior to her TV show in the late fifties even though I'd seen her in some.  I'm on record as not really liking Lon Chaney Jr.'s work but I thought he served this picture well as the one-legged friend to Barbarossa, Peg Leg. Including a young boy in the cast (Skip Torgerson as Datu) indicates (and justifies) that this is aimed at that young boy, Saturday crowd mentioned earlier.  Had I seen this sixty years ago and as a boy his age I would have eaten this up and come back for seconds.  Fans of swashbuckling swordplay will be disappointed as there's only a little bit and the choreography is sometimes clumsy.  Errol Flynn and Basil Rathbone these cats are not.

As an adult who has seen a large number of these pirate pictures, many of which are the best the genre has to offer, I look forward to each and every one of these but I realize that I've probably seen the best and everything else is just leftover cake from the party last week.  Still, I enjoyed it despite it's limitations in the budget and the production.  No one knew they were aspiring to make a great film but they easily succeeded in making an entertaining one nonetheless.  

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