Against All Flags (1952)

Against All Flags (1952), directed by George Sherman and Douglas Sirk.

A naval officer volunteers to be stripped of rank, flogged and cast adrift in a longboat so he can penetrate the fortress city of the Captains of the Coast pirates of Madagascar. His mission is complicated by a love triangle with fetching Captain Prudence "Spitfire" Stevens and the dangerous Captain Roc Brasiliano. Even better: the pirates have captured the daughter of the Moghul Emperor of India and heroic Lieutenant Hawke will have to save her too!

A standard pirating yarn (though mostly land-based and filmed on studio lots) with features that continue to be mined in the more recent pirate film revival, as with the pirate council in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (2007). (In this film one character says "So say we all!", instantly suggesting Battlestar Galactica (2004)).

We are at the end of pirating film era and the genre has slackening sails, becalmed from over-use and formulaic elements. They try to make it fun, presumably suitable for children, although the sexual innuendo creeps in. Apart from the slave-bride auction ("For legal marriage only!") and associated pirate newlywed jokes, we have these exchanges:


Hawke: You're one of the Captains of the Coast?

Spitfire: And why shouldn't I be when I own a ship?

Hawke: No reason at all, ma'am. Except that if the Captains do decide to dispose of me, I shall only regret that I didn't have the honor of serving under you.

Spitfire: [Flustered, walks away].


Spitfire: You boasted about what you could do with your hands untied. So... [Sits and arranges herself comfortably]. Get to it, Mr. Hawke.

The film pilfers and mixes costumes and religious decorations from the Muslims, Hindus and Arabian Nights, but that's Hollywood.

I might not have reviewed this except for Errol Flynn and the other good talent:

Errol Flynn is also getting to the end of his action career. Still plausibly handsome but you can see hard living has taken its toll and he seems short of breath. His charm and sex appeal: relying on former glory, I fear. He sings, briefly.

Maureen O'Hara, lovely as always, gives a nicely modulated performance. In this sort of film you can be neither too serious nor too silly. As a pirate captain she strives to be sexually dominant but obviously has some doubts on that score. One of her costumes is a Maid Marian outfit which is confusing. Those tall boots: yeow! She handles a sword well; with this and At Sword's Point (1952) she had a little action-genre career.

Anthony Quinn is our villain, a man of passion but not a coward. In his dying moment he throws his sword at Flynn who contemptuously parries it aside. He and O'Hara reunite from Sinbad, the Sailor (1947).

Russell Metty is the cinematographer.

Flynn broke an ankle toward the end of shooting and they made Yankee Buccaneer (1952) on the same set while he was out.

Remade as The King's Pirate (1967) with Doug McClure and Jill St. John.

Available on DVD. Could use restoration; the Technicolor deserves it.