The Boy and the Pirates (1960)

THE BOY AND THE PIRATES (1960)
Article #1263 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-29-2004
Posting Date: 1-26-2005
Directed by Bert I. Gordon
Featuring Charles Herbert, Susan Gordon, Murvyn Vye

A boy who dreams of the days of pirates finds himself spirited there as a result of his finding a genie in a bottle. Unfortunately, there’s a catch. Unless he returns the bottle to the place where he found it in three days, the genie will go free and the boy will be forced to take his place in the bottle.

There are some nice things about this movie. The special effects are quite good, and the movie manages to achieve the right balance between cuteness (the pirates dealing with bubblegum having gotten in their stew; Blackbeard discovers safety matches) and brutality (the boy is threatened with a red-hot metal rod at one point; Blackbeard has the habit of spontaneously offing those who defy him). It also has a fun sense of irony that could have been played up; the boy doesn’t care much for having to mop the floor at home or having to eat vegetables (which pirates never eat, he believes), but once on the pirate ship his first job is swabbing the deck, and he also has to serve in the galley by peeling vegetables.

Unfortunately, the movie suffers because of a rather glum air over the proceedings. The reason for this is Charles Herbert’s performance as the boy; his main reaction to his situation is one of dour grumpiness, and it saps a great deal of fun from the proceedings. The adults fare somewhat better, particularly Murvyn Vye as the rather unpredictable Blackbeard, and Paul Guilfoyle as Snipe, the pirate most sympathetic to the plight of the children. All in all, it’s not bad, but it never quite acquires the sense of fun that it should have.

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