26 October 2014 | TheLittleSongbird
The most bizarre Treasure Island adaptation, as well as the worst
That the story is such a classic and that it had Jack Palance in it were two reasons enough to give this much-maligned adaptation a try. Unfortunately, this adaptation of Treasure Island just doesn't work at all and by far the worst version, to me the only really bad one as well. It's a disaster as an adaptation, and judging it on its own terms(which this reviewer considers a fairer approach and always tries to use it) there's little to praise it either. The locations are beautiful indeed if not always tropical enough, the Hispagnola is fantastically rendered and the adaptation is well shot, the start is quite strong and there are a few good performances with Kevin Zegers' appealing Jim Hawkins, Walter Sparrow's humorous Ben Gunn and Patrick Bergin's gusty Billy Bones. Jack Palance is the big name here, he certainly tries his best as Silver and looks the part in a role that on paper he was perfect for but he deserved much better scripting and direction than what he got. Because what we got was a waste of a great actor's talents, there are numerous points where Palance is very charismatic and engaging but when the scripting is particularly poor there is the sense that Palance knew it was poor and gives up. The rest of the acting shows little enthusiasm either, in fact most of the cast go through the motions.
Characterisation is incredibly weak here and not really in the bland sort of way but in the grossly distorted sort of way, where we have the least frightening Blind Pew imaginable and interesting characters like Squire Trelawney now one-sided caricatures, and the less said about the good guys now bad thing the better. What was really disappointing was the lack of development in Silver and Jim's relationship, crucial to the story and very interesting and potentially poignant but hardly seen. And you know something's wrong when you can't really tell whether Silver is good or bad, no other adaptation of Treasure Island has had that problem. But other than the bizarre treatment of the story and characters the main problem with this Treasure Island adaptation was how lazy it felt. The script is one corny muddle with some parts only feeling like padding which only succeeds in slowing down the pacing, and the story is plodding and completely lacking in adventurous spark, intensity and mystery that would have been there if just a little if the stockade assault had not been left out.
When it comes to the changes, changes to a story is not a problem but it can be if the changes are basically useless and drag the adaptation down and that was exactly the case with this Treasure Island. It also depends on the nature of the changes and here it just felt bizarre in a way that you don't want to witness again. The adaptation is hurt even further by too much focus on Black Dog, a secondary character originally and it feels like it, an incredibly rushed and anti-climatic final battle and a very tacked-on and toe-curlingly cheesy ending that leaves a sour taste in the mouth. All in all, lazy and uncomfortably weird, a very bad version(even on its own terms) and not worth bothering with unless you are a fan of Palance or one dead-set on seeing every Treasure Island adaptation available. 3/10 Bethany Cox