Charles Laughton in
Adventure on the high seas! Before Johnny Depp there was Charles Laughton as the tragic comedic pirate.
The notorious pirate played by Charles Laughton tricks King William III into letting him escort treasure-laden merchant ships to India. Co-starring Randolph Scott and an especially menacing John Carradine.
In this unhistorical account, Capt. William Kidd is already a clever, ruthless pirate when, in 1699, he tricks the king into commissioning him as escort for a treasure ship from India. He enlists a crew of pardoned cutthroats...and Orange Povey, whom Kidd once abandoned on a reef and hoped never to see again. Of course, Kidd's intentions are treacherous. But there's more to gunner Adam Mercy than meets the eye.
A fun film to watch film pirate lovers.
Much of this is good fun, and some of the cinematography is gorgeous - even by today's standards, the use of miniatures and trick camerawork creates a convincing illusion of ships at battle on roiling seas. Ultimately, the true pleasure in watching the film comes from Laughton's peculiar performance, which is similarly theatrical, as though it were an oversized clown act from a London stage transferred to film. He plays Kidd without nuance, telegraphng the captain's bloated greed and amorality as though these were comical personal eccentricities. The closest the screen has since produced to Laughton's outre characterization is Harvey Fierstein's Pirate King character in 1997's Kull the Conqueror, which is pure camp. Now of course many will say he has been surpassed by Johnny Depp's Captain Sparrow.