Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Anne of the Indies (1951)

I’d never heard of this one until TiVo discovered it for me. It’s not available on DVD right now, but I wish it was because I’d love to have a copy. It’s now one of my favorite pirate movies ever. Then again, it’s pretty much designed to be.

It’s about Captain Anne Providence, fictional protégé of Blackbeard and a particularly nasty cutthroat. They hooked me with “lady captain” and reeled me in with my favorite historical pirate. Putting Debra (The Ten Commandments, Seven Angry Men) Paget in it guts, cleans me, and puts me on the grill. Sorry. I took the fishing analogy too far, didn’t I? (I should say that Paget doesn’t play Captain Providence, by the way. Hers is a supporting role, but holy rum is she beautiful.)

I can’t say much about the plot without spoiling it. It’s full of suspicions and motivations that aren’t clear until they are. Anne (Jean Peters from Niagara) hates the English who killed her brother for piracy, so the movie opens with her taking an English ship and making the crew walk the plank. Against the advice of her first mate, she spares the life of a Frenchman named LaRochelle (Louis Jourdan from Octopussy) who was a prisoner of the English. LaRochelle joins the crew and the rest of the movie covers Anne’s relationship with him and whether or not he’s trustworthy.

At first, I assumed that LaRochelle would quickly tame Anne and the film would end with their getting married and retiring from the pirates’ life. I was way off. It’s a much deeper story than that. Though there’s plenty of sword-fighting and cannon-fire, it’s really a character study of Anne. There’s no last-minute change into a more acceptable, “feminine” heroine. It's a dark film; full of moral ambiguity and without any clearly defined good or bad guys. It's Pirate Noir!

I’m aching to say more, but I’ll resist. It’s a movie that deserves to be seen without preconceptions. If you're interested, Fox Movie Channel's showing it again on June 18th.

Five out of five pirate queens.

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