Sea captain Bart Paxton has a thankless task from the King of England.Henry Morgan, erstwhile ally of the crown, has set up a kingdom onTortuga, whose buccaneers are robbing English ships at will andstrangling the island of Jamaica. The Royal Navy can't attack Tortugawithout igniting a new war with Spain, so the King is sending Paxton asa secret privateer to put an end to Morgan's depredations. And Meg, theyoung hellion who has stowed away on Paxton's ship, isn't making hisjob any easier.<br><br>Unlike its predecessor The Black Swan or its contemporary Morgan thePirate, Pirates of Tortuga casts Henry Morgan as a villain, the correctand natural role for that treacherous, rapacious, and brilliant man.The one difficulty is that the historical Captain Morgan died rich,contented, and even respectable, a most unsatisfying end for a movievillain. The movie deals with this problem straightforwardly, byconstructing a sort of alternate history that shows what might havehappened if Morgan had not chosen to answer King Charles's summons toEngland after his raid on Panama in 1671, with its very real attendantrisk of imprisonment and execution, but instead had followed the coursemany of his fellow buccaneers did by raiding and lootingindiscriminately. It would have been well within Morgan's power to setup the "buccaneer kingdom" on Tortuga that the movie shows.<br><br>The plot is bare-bones, but serviceable: Paxton finds Morgan, Paxtonposes as partner of Morgan to spy out Morgan's fortress, Meg flirtswith the governor of Jamaica, but ultimately decides her heart trulylies with Paxton, Paxton defeats Morgan. But the denouement is a majordisappointment: unimaginative, perfunctory, and implausible at once,and moreover, it fails to tie up Morgan's end of the story.<br><br>Bart Paxton's part is well-written, a potentially dashing commanderwith real brains and imagination, but Ken Scott is unable to bringanything to the role but heroic blandness. Letitia Roman is certainlyfetching as Meg, especially in her sailor's togs, and her bare-leggedwriggling in Paxton's bed is a clear sign of the sexual revolution'stsunami roaring toward the beach of the Hayes Code. But looking beyondher physical charms, Meg's personality really has nothing to recommendher: she's not smart, brave, loyal, honest, or even charming.<br><br>Robert Stephens' Henry Morgan is interesting, but ultimatelyineffective. Stephens plays Morgan as a full-blown alcoholic, completewith the shakes. His Morgan is greedy (his eyes almost bug out whenPaxton presents him with a chest full of guineas) and cruel, butcredulous and unintelligent. He is fun to hate, as a good villainshould be, but he lacks the frisson of menace that emanated fromRathbone's Levasseur or Newton's and Heston's Long John Silver.<br><br>The supporting cast comes to the rescue, particularly Dave King asPeeWee and Stanley Adams as Montbars. King is appealing, dashing, andsometimes very funny, while Adams' Montbars is pure, unbridledappetite, fat and greedy and bullying, a perfect pirate.<br><br>Visually, the movie is outstanding. The shots of the sailing ships aresublime, the colors are sumptuous, and the islands and cliffs aremagnificent. The movie is fun to watch, and while it won't stay withyou long, it avoids the gratuitous absurdity of many pirate movies.<br><br>Rating: ** ½ out of ****.<br><br>Recommendation: Worth a rental after it leaves the new release shelves.
Pirates of Tortuga
Pirates of Tortuga
An English captain and his crew are dispatched to the Spanish-controlled island of Tortuga, where famed privateer Henry Morgan has defected from his support of the English Empire and is running a strictly piratical venture, stopping any and all vessels including English.
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