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Friday, March 23, 2012

The Buccaneer (1958)

Set during the 1812 war between the United States and Great Britain, the notorious pirate Jean Lafitte (Yul Brynner) is courted by the British to aid them in their cause but he's disposed to helping the Americans. Not the least because he's in love with the daughter (Inger Stevens) of the Louisiana governor (E.G. Marshall). Originally set to be directed by Cecil B. DeMille, who had earlier directed the 1938 version, but ill health caused him to turn the directorial reins over to his (then) son in law, the actor Anthony Quinn. But DeMille's heavy hand is obvious through out the film. Historically, there's more fiction than fact, but it's an entertaining piece of swashbuckling hokum. Though filmed in 1958, the movie looks like it was filmed in the 1930s or 1940s. It has an artificial look to it, most likely because the entire film including exteriors were shot on the Paramount backlot and sound stages, even the battle scenes. The battle scenes in the Louisiana swamps are heavily shrouded in fog, no doubt to disguise the fact that we're on a movie sound stage. The disappointing score is by Elmer Bernstein. With Charlton Heston as Andrew Jackson, Charles Boyer (very good) and Claire Bloom, wasted as a lady pirate. The massive supporting cast reads like a who's who of Hollywood character actors: Lorne Greene, Henry Hull, Ted De Corsia, Douglass Dumbrille, Kathleen Freeman, Woody Strode, Norma Varden, Robert F. Simon, Bruce Gordon, George Mathews, Barry Kelley, Iris Adrian and Fran Jeffries.

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