Bil’s rating (out of 5): B. France/Tunisia, 1986. Carthago Films S.a.r.l., Accent Films, Cominco. Screenplay by Gerard Brach, Roman Polanski, from a screenplay by John Brownjohn. Cinematography by Witold Sobocinski. Produced by Tarak Ben Ammar. Music by Philippe Sarde. Production Design by Pierre Guffroy. Costume Design by Anthony Powell. Film Editing by Herve de Luze, William Reynolds. Academy Awards 1986.
Roman Polanski was possibly looking to corner the family market and improve his image in his first feature film after being convicted of statutory rape (which, according to the female lead of this film, was a habit he didn’t exactly abandon). The result is a disappointing effort for fans of the filmmaker who hadn’t surfaced since 1979’s Tess, a messy debacle about a peg-legged pirate (Walter Matthau) and his ship’s boy (Cris Campion) who are stranded after a shipwreck and end up on a British government vessel. There they meet a cook wrongfully accused of trying to steal the treasure on board, a golden throne from an ancient kingdom, that Matthau decides he needs to make his own. Meanwhile, Campion catches the eye of the governor’s niece (Charlotte Lewis) and is more motivated by her than the golden treasure. There’s not really a great need for a strong plot here, I’d be happy with something that bounced along from situation to situation, but the various sequences all feel like they make themselves up on the spot and there’s not that much to distinguish the many grubby personalities involved. It’s a surprising amount of energy spent on something that is so dull and boring, and would be one of the many reasons that pirate movies would be considered box office poison (Cutthroat Island anyone?) until Johnny Depp and his band of brigands would break the spell in 2003.