Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Buccaneer’s Girl (1950)

Buccaneer’s Girl offers us Yvonne de Carlo as a lady pirate, which should have been an excellent idea. And fortunately that’s exactly what it proves to be.

OK, she’s not quite a lady pirate. Not exactly, but sort of. She’s Deborah McCoy, a stowaway on a ship that gets captured by the infamous pirate Frederic Baptiste (Philip Friend). Baptiste orders her put into the ship’s boats with the rest of the crew of the captured ship. It should be explained that as pirates go Baptiste is rather humane - when he takes a ship he ensures that the crews are given plenty of provisions to allow them to reach land in safety. Deborah however contrives to stay aboard Baptiste’s ship. She’s not an easy girl to get rid of.

Deborah does eventually reach New Orleans where she is taken in by Madame Brizar (Elsa Lanchester), who undertakes to train her to be a high-class entertainer. She is already an entertainer, but a decidedly low-class one. It’s probably reasonable to assume that Madame Brizar’s girls are courtesans rather than entertainers but this being essentially a family movie the point is left suitably vague.  

Deborah has visions of snaring the fabulously wealthy ship owner Narbonne. She seems fated however to keep running into Baptiste, who is not the person she thought he was. Of course Deborah and the dashing pirate are going to fall in love but there are many complications to be disposed of first.

There is a complicated connection between Narbonne and Baptiste, based on a desire by the pirate to settle old scores and right old injustices. Baptiste might be a pirate but he’s not a villain. 

Much of the film is is concerned with a romantic triangle and with Deborah’s adventures in New Orleans. There are some action scenes to come though and they’re quite well done. Unfortunately there really needed to be a bit more action.

Director Frederick de Cordova’s small output of modestly budgeted features included several swashbucklers. By the mid-50s he had switched (very successfully) to television. He handles Buccaneer’s Girl perfectly competently.

Philip Friend is an adequate swashbuckling hero. He’s certainly no Errol Flynn but then this movie is considerably less ambitious than Flynn’s adventure movies. Elsa Lanchester is delightful as the dotty but rather kind Madame Brizar. The supporting cast is competent.

The movie however definitely belongs to Yvonne de Carlo. It was intended as a starring vehicle for her, she’s the one who has to carry the film, and she does so with style and enthusiasm. Deborah might not be a modern-style kickass action heroine but she’s fiery and feisty, she’s resourceful, and she’s capable of looking after herself pretty well by relying on brains rather than muscle. In general she’s just the type of gal to make a perfect companion for a pirate. She also gets involved in a memorable cat-fight with Baptiste’s old girlfriend.

This was not a big budget movie but the studio backlot stands in pretty well for New Orleans and production values are reasonably high. It was shot in Technicolor and it looks good.

Deborah gets to do some singing and dancing although her numbers suggest that Madame Brizar might need to give her a bit more tutelage in that area.

The movie fizzles out a bit towards the end - in a pirate movie we feel entitled to expect a more exciting action finale. 

Buccaneer’s Girl is part of Universal’s four-movie Pirates of the Golden Age DVD boxed set (with the four movies on two discs). There are no extras but the transfer is top-notch.

This is a light-hearted romantic adventure romp with a bit of humour. Don’t expect anything in the same league as Captain Blood but this film delivers very satisfactory B-movie entertainment with Yvonne de Carlo in sparkling form. Highly recommended.

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