THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE —based on a story by Robert Louis Stevenson, this unsung 1953 lark is one of Errol Flynn’s best swashbucklers. Set in the 1740s, it finds the heir to Ballantrae Castle (guess who?) leaving Scotland after the English ouster of Bonnie Prince Charlie. Vowing revenge on the brother he thinks betrayed him, our hero falls in with pirates, and after several adventures in far-flung hellholes, he returns to exact his vengeance.
William Keighley, who put Flynn through his paces in The Adventures Of Robin Hood, The Prince And The Pauper and Rocky Mountain, ends his directorial career on a good note, as this fast flick is a lot of fun, packed with good swordplay and lively brawling, cheerfully whisking through 90 minutes with little slack time.
Great dialogue that doesn’t take itself too seriously, delightful costuming, swell sound and color, with camera work by ace Jack Cardiff adding to the enjoyment by shooting on locations around Cornwall in England, in the Scottish Highlands and near Palermo, Sicily.
Flynn and several others don’t attempt regional accents, but who cares?, when every minute or so there’s a bit like the one where a wildly foppish French buccaneer introduces Flynn to his chief mate and crew: “A good man..but an imbecile..and the others…pigs!”
With Roger Livesey, Anthony Steele, Jacques Berthier, Beatrice Campbell, Yvonne Furneaux, Felix Aylmer and Mervyn Johns. It came in 55th for the year in the States, but foreign grosses were strong, so it chalked up over $6,000,000.