A Movie A Day: THE DEVIL-SHIP PIRATES (1964)
If you try to interfere with our departure those girls will be hanged.
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with today’s installment of A Movie A Day.
[For those now joining us, A Movie A Day is my attempt at filling in gaps in my film knowledge. My DVD collection is thousands strong, many of them films I haven’t seen yet, but picked up as I scoured used DVD stores. Each day I’ll pull a previously unseen film from my collection and discuss it here. Each movie will have some sort of connection to the one before it, be it cast or crew member.]
Today we get another “tits and swords” Hammer pirate flick starring Christopher Lee called THE DEVIL-SHIP PIRATES. “Tits and swords” are what screenwriter Jimmy Sangster calls these Hammer flicks, which he mentions on the commentary to this movie. Minus the nude women, he’s right on. Maybe a more apt phrase would be “Busts and Swords” but it doesn’t have that same ring to it, does it?
Anyway, I’ve been greatly enjoying the run on this DVD set and THE DEVIL-SHIP PIRATES keeps up the entertaining adventure run started by TERROR OF THE TONGS, yesterday’s THE PIRATES OF BLOOD RIVER and hopefully continued when we come back to finish off this set after a short detour to some of Christopher Lee’s Dracula flicks.
This time Lee plays a Spanish pirate drafted to battle for the King against the British fleet. After a foggy naval defeat that opens this picture we find that the Spanish armada is crippled and Lee’s ship, Diablo, limps away.
He makes the decision to say “fuck off” to the King and docks his critically wounded vessel on the English coastline for repairs. He takes the ship back, killing the Spanish captain onboard.
While repairing the ship a beautiful blonde rows up and is captured. Natasha Pyne plays this innocent young girl who is manipulated by Lee to give info on her small village. All the ablebodied men are at war, leaving only elderly and disabled men.
Our hero is John Cairney (Hylas from JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS), a young man who is left on land after being injured in the war, his left arm useless. But that doesn’t stop him from being a real challenge for Christopher Lee as he rides into town, telling the townspeople that the English have lost the war and that they’re all under his rule now.
From here on out, you have Cairney leading a band of rebels to find out if he’s telling the truth all the while plotting to rid the town of these men. He’s not being helped by the local town… well I don’t know exactly what the hell he is, but he’s played by Ernest Clark and he’s in charge… I’m guessing by social rank, as he’s the richest man in town.
He’s also a coward, not wanting to fight and believing he can keep his status by placating the Spaniards.
There’s plenty of sword fights and some awesome pirate action, including a brawl to settle a difference reminding me of a similar situation in John Wayne’s THE ALAMO where these two men settle the difference by taking turns punching each other. One blow, followed by a reciprocating blow until one is on his ass.
Cairney is, for the first time in this series of Sangster-penned Hammer adventure stories, a solid leading man, I think in large part to giving him such a physical flaw that when he overcomes it to kill himself some bastard pirates you really feel like cheering him on.
In fact, there’s a point where he’s facing down a pirate armed with only a dagger vs. the gloating pirate’s sword. “What are you going to do with that?” the pirate laughs? And without missing a beat Cairney tosses the dagger right into that bastard’s chest.
Isn’t that awesome? I thought it was.
Also unlike the other Hammer Pirate movies, this one actually has a ship. Hammer footed the bill for a real ship! Of course, it spends most of the movie docked on land, waiting for the tide to come back in as the repairs are being done, but still. The whole beginning and finale take place on the boat, so that particular Pirate film itch is now scratched.
Christopher Lee, as always, the bomb. He is given one swordfight that is absolutely delicious. You know and I know that Lee can’t be beat in a swordfight until the last act, so Sangster and director Don Sharp (RASPUTIN: THE MAD MONK, THE FACE OF FU MANCHU) smartly replace the tension of a standard swordfight with Lee playing cat to his adversary’s mouse. Lee toys with the man, passing up a chance to administer a killing stroke with an evil smile. He wants to play some more.
Final Thoughts: So far there hasn’t been a dud on this DVD set. It’s great to see Lee playing out of his horror safe zone even though I’d wager that these pirates he’s playing are every bit as ruthless and blood-thirsty as the vampires and monsters he had played up to this point. The color photography has been great across all these pictures and, most importantly, the sense of fun and adventure has never been lost. These are great little gems.
The schedule for the next 7 days is:
Monday, August 18th: JESS FRANCO’S COUNT DRACULA (1973)
Tuesday, August 19th: DRACULA A.D. 1972 (1972)
Wednesday, August 20th: THE STRANGLERS OF BOMBAY (1960)
Thursday, August 21st: MAN, WOMAN & CHILD (1983)
Friday, August 22nd: THE LITTLE GIRL WHO LIVES DOWN THE LANE (1976)
Saturday, August 23rd: THE YOUNG PHILADELPHIANS (1959)
Sunday, August 24th: THE RACK (1956)
I have to admit that I’m cheating a little on the newly announced AMAD title, THE RACK. That’s one I’ve recorded on my DVR off of TCM. It has a great cast, featuring a young young Paul Newman, Lee Marvin, Cloris Leachman and Edmond O’Brien and sounds a little MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE, so I hit the record button and put it on the queue. As far as I know, it’s not available on DVD.
Anyway, tomorrow we hit Christopher Lee playing Dracula once again, this time for Jess Franco. I’m actually not all that big of a Franco fan, but I love me some vampire Lee so we’ll see how it turns out. See you folks then.
June 2nd: Harper
June 3rd: The Drowning Pool
June 4th: Papillon
June 5th: Gun Crazy
June 6th: Never So Few
June 7th: A Hole In The Head
June 8th: Some Came Running
June 9th: Rio Bravo
June 10th: Point Blank
June 11th: Pocket Money
June 12th: Cool Hand Luke
June 13th: The Asphalt Jungle
June 14th: Clash By Night
June 15th: Scarlet Street
June 16th: Killer Bait (aka Too Late For Tears)
June 17th: Robinson Crusoe On Mars
June 18th: City For Conquest
June 19th: San Quentin
June 20th: 42nd Street
June 21st: Dames
June 22nd: Gold Diggers of 1935
June 23rd: Murder, My Sweet
June 24th: Born To Kill
June 25th: The Sound of Music
June 26th: Torn Curtain
June 27th: The Left Handed Gun
June 28th: Caligula
June 29th: The Elephant Man
June 30th: The Good Father
July 1st: Shock Treatment
July 2nd: Flashback
July 3rd: Klute
July 4th: On Golden Pond
July 5th: The Cowboys
July 6th: The Alamo
July 7th: Sands of Iwo Jima
July 8th: Wake of the Red Witch
July 9th: D.O.A.
July 10th: Shadow of A Doubt
July 11th: The Matchmaker
July 12th: The Black Hole
July 13th: Vengeance Is Mine
July 14th: Strange Invaders
July 15th: Sleuth
July 16th: Frenzy
July 17th: Kingdom of Heaven: The Director’s Cut
July 18th: Cadillac Man
July 19th: The Sure Thing
July 20th: Moving Violations
July 21st: Meatballs
July 22nd: Cast a Giant Shadow
July 23rd: Out of the Past
July 24th: The Big Steal
July 25th: Where Danger Lives
July 26th: Crossfire
July 27th: Ricco, The Mean Machine
July 28th: In Harm’s Way
July 29th: Firecreek
July 30th: The Cheyenne Social Club
July 31st: The Man Who Knew Too Much
August 1st: The Spirit of St. Louis
August 2nd: Von Ryan’s Express
August 3rd: Can-Can
August 4th: Desperate Characters
August 5th: The Possession of Joel Delaney
August 6th: Quackser Fortune Has A Cousin In The Bronx
August 7th: Start the Revolution Without Me
August 8th: Hell Is A City
August 9th: The Pied Piper
August 10th: Partners
August 11th: Barry Lyndon
August 12th: The Skull
August 13th: The Hellfire Club
August 14th: Blood of the Vampire
August 15th: Terror of the Tongs
August 16th: Pirates of Blood River
Readers Talkbackcomments powered by Disqus
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Aug. 18, 2008, 2:09 a.m. CST
quint should watch elvis movies, that might be cool. Throw in some Beach Party as well...
Aug. 18, 2008, 2:13 a.m. CST
pseudo exploitation. but i havent seen it in forever
Aug. 18, 2008, 3:25 a.m. CST
not that i know what gay porno covers look like. and not that there's anything wrong with that.
Aug. 18, 2008, 5:44 a.m. CST
I will allow "The Rack" to be included. I see nothing wrong with viewing films recorded off TCM. A lot of great stuff not on dvd airs on TCM. You should do that more often. I would also like to see more "omg! you haven't seen that?", type classics at least every fifth film. The runs of good, but forgettable films kinda drags the column down sometimes. Spirit of St. Louis to Barry Lyndon was rough. You need more "tent poles" I think.
Aug. 18, 2008, 7:09 a.m. CST
I know you said before that the dvd quality is fine, but that cover makes it look like the generic public domain low-quality stuff. So is the picture quality really ok?
Aug. 18, 2008, 9:22 a.m. CST
I really would like to see some of these.
Aug. 18, 2008, 11:30 a.m. CST
One of the first movies to freak me out as a kid. Not the first--I'm thinking of one flick I saw on HBO circa 1977 that was really messed up, about Armegeddon or the end of the world, and I seem to remember it ending with a guy rolling around naked with two girls and somehow they get merged into one ape-like creature that speaks like Groucho Marx. And somehow that's the next stage of evolution for man. That movie was freaky. And I think I had already been scared pissless by Carrie before I saw Little Girl . . . but still, damn, that movie weirded me out. Of course, I was, like, seven years old. <br><br> Arnold also freaked me out. Quint, if you've never seen Arnold (1973) with Roddy McDowell and Jamie Farr and Stella Stevens, you might want to check it out. Bizarre movie, worth it for seeing Roddy McDowell murdered by getting squeezed to death by a too-tight leisure suit. So, Arnold, Hellhouse, a few other movie I shouldn't have seen so young had already freaked me up, but Little Girl was certainly in there. And I don't think I've seen that film since 1977, 1978.<br><br> Favorite movie I saw a thousand times, thanks to how often HBO re-ran things back in '78? The Big Bus. I saw that movie a lot. I always hopes someone would remake it. No, we've got to remake Friday the 13th. No love for The Big Bus? Come on, people.
Aug. 18, 2008, 11:35 a.m. CST
Have you ever seen The Big Bus, Quint? If not, you've got plenty of linkage . . . Stockard Channing, Larry Hagman, Ruth Gordon, Ned Beatty, Joseph Bologna, Lynn Redgrave, Richard Mulligan. James Frawley directed that and one of my all-time favorite movies, The Muppet Movie. And has been directing TV for the last 20 years. ;)<br><br> Give The Big Bus some love. I'm countin' on ya.
Aug. 18, 2008, 2:05 p.m. CST
"The result of the experiment is supposedly a new Messiah, but is actually a rather dumpy looking caveman"--from Wikipedia. That sounds like it's it, exactly. One day, I will watch that movie again, and I probably will find almost nothing familiar about it except the end. And I wonder why a 1973 film was getting so much play on HBO back in 1977-78. I remember them showing that one a lot.
Aug. 18, 2008, 8:06 p.m. CST
Aug. 18, 2008, 8:30 p.m. CST
The picture quality is fantastic on all three of the 4 films I've watched on the disc. All have commentary by Jimmy Sangster, Hammer Art Director and a film historian. They actually treat this release with some class, which is why it's so shocking that the cover looks so generic and unappealing.
Aug. 19, 2008, 2:05 p.m. CST
Added it to the wishlist. Seems odd that they would skimp so much on the cover, I would wager projects like this are bought 80% of the time based on the cover art.
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