Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Buccaneers (Incorporated Television Company [ITC]/Sapphire Films, 1956)

by Mark Gabrish Conlan • Copyright © 2011 by Mark Gabrish Conlan • All rights reserved

Afterwards Charles and I watched another quirky item we downloaded from an episode of The Buccaneers, a 1956 British TV series noteworthy for casting the young Robert Shaw as Captain Dan Tempest, a pirate who goes out on a hunt for treasure from Spanish ships and arrives back at the colony of New Providence (presumably in the West Indies) to find that he’s missed — by two weeks — the pardon the British king of the time had offered to pirates who agreed to renounce that lifestyle, settle down and become farmers. The colony’s governor, Woodes Rogers (Alec Clunes, who bears a striking resemblance to Errol Flynn and, for me at least, outshines Shaw in the charisma department), gets Tempest to start a plantation and grow dyewood — which, as its name suggests, has an inner core that can be turned into dye — and later he sends Tempest out on a ship to get the colony’s goods to the Carolinas (yes, the ones in what later became the U.S.) on the ground that an ex-pirate is likely to be able to frustrate the attempts of current pirates, most notably the notorious Blackbeard (George Margo), to steal either the cargo he’s taking to the Carolinas or the supplies he’s supposed to pick up there and bring back to New Providence.

Like Captain Calamity, this was a charming episode in which the big issue was whether Tempest was going to be a good little boy or revert to his trade of piracy — as the crew of his ship, who had sailed with him when he was still a pirate, clearly wanted him to — leading up to a trick ending in which Tempest appears to be ready to dump his obligations to the Crown and join forces with Blackbeard, only instead he imprisons his crew in the ship’s hold and joins with Beamish (Peter Hammond), Rogers’ agent on board and the “enforcer” the governor has sent to make sure Tempest behaves, to fire two chained-together cannonballs at Blackbeard’s ship, thereby bringing down its mast and pinning Blackbeard (who’s played as a comic-relief character) under it. While not at the level of Captain Calamity, this show was also good clean fun that at once embraced and ridiculed the pirate-movie clichés — and apparently the show lasted 37 episodes over two years (1956-57), so somebody out there must have liked it.