11 October 2004 | dvandevi
Welles makes this film work
At first glance, Orson Welles did indeed seem to be woefully mis-cast in this bastardized [French, Italian, Spanish, British, West German and who knows what else] version of the Stevenson classic. Fortunately, by the second or third viewing you start to focus less on Welles articulation and more on the film itself. It is a menacing version. From the moment ships' cook Silver opens the galley window with his crutch and demands 'Three cheers for Cap'n Smollett!' this version is dripping with evil. And Welles is just the actor [and his mumbling delivery is deliberately utilized] to bring that evil into sharp focus. Kim Burfield is superb as Jim Hawkins [a kid alternately scared-to-death and naively cocky] , and even when Silver asserts that 'I thinks gold-dust of this here boy!' you know the kid's in trouble. That international crew of pirates brings an air of realism to the production [even if their lips aren't always moving in synchronization with the spoken dialogue] which an all-English crew wouldn't have imparted, and Jean Lefebvre's somewhat dazed Ben Gunn is in fine contrast to Geoffrey Wilkinson's loopy Disney version. Natale Massara's score is wonderful, though apparently there never was a soundtrack ['and more's the pity'], and the cinematography is magnificent. My only two criticisms are that Lionel Stander is badly mis-cast as Billy Bones [the guy still sounded like exactly what he was: a tough-guy from the Bronx], and the pirates' treasure-hunting seems much-too-much like they're out for a leisurely Sunday after-dinner stroll. It definitely lacks urgency. This said, I would rank this version almost on a par with the Disney/Newton version, and well worth owning and watching again and again.