Joined: 06 Sep 2015
|Posted: Tue Mar 24, 2020 8:26 pm Post subject: A High Wind in Jamaica (1965)
|A High Wind in Jamaica (1965)
After a tropical storm destroys their home, English parents decided to send their children back to the mother country to be raised and educated in civilized society. Somewhere on the high seas, the ship is boarded by pirates. By a fluke, the children are transported to the pirate vessel where they remain undiscovered until it is too late to return them to their caretakers.
Anthony Quinn plays Chavez, a blustering pirate captain, who is marginally competent at best. Chavez isn’t a stupid man, just one with a childish streak. You have to wonder why the crew would follow such a wildly unpredictable character until you realize they aren’t very much smarter than he.
James Coburn as first mate, Zac, is the real brains behind Quinn, the strong man who is able to whip a disparate band of cutthroats into something resembling a functioning unit. His relationship to Quinn is never fully explained as they bicker like a seafaring Abbott and Costello forever sailing toward no future other than the next ship to plunder, which is probably closer to reality than most movie pirate epics.
Once the children are discovered, Quinn decides to drop them off at the nearest port while the superstitious pirates do their best to ignore them as potential harbingers of bad luck. It doesn’t help when one of the children playfully turns the head of the ships figurehead backwards. As the crew washes down the deck, the children amuse themselves by sliding along the wet surface in their underclothing. And when Quinn admonishes them to stop, “Who’s going to mend your drawers? Not me!” They are scandalized. “You’re not supposed to mention drawers.”
With the exception of Emily, played by 11-year old Deborah Baxter, the children are a nebulous group. Emily takes an interest in Chavez and begins to follow him about, much to his increasing annoyance and confusion. Seldom speaking, always observant, she becomes the catalyst by which Chavez discovers his own humanity. Still, she remains a cypher, enigmatic to the end, due to Baxter’s effortless performance that offers little explanation for her motivations and allows the audience to fill in the answers. Baxter made only seven features and television series between 1965 and 2000. She is quite good here, although it doesn’t measure what her full range might have been.
Up to now, the movie has been a grand adventure. Once the children are delivered to Tampico to be eventually turned over to authorities while the pirates make their escape, an accident forces Chavez to return them to the ship and the story takes a decidedly dark turn.
The movie is based (somewhat loosely, I believe) on Richard Hughes’ novel. Hughes seems to infer here that the children, and by extension most children, are basically amoral, neither bad seeds nor angelic moppets, who acknowledge the adult universe but remain emotionally disengaged from it unless directly imposed upon by circumstances. The children are able to weave in and out of society, alternately dependent and independent of the adults and completely careless about the effect they are having on the larger world around them. Under normal conditions, they thrive, mature and are replaced by the next generation. In extraordinary situations as outlined in Hughes’ novel, their effect on events can be quite the opposite.
Among the familiar faces on the voyage are Gert Frobe, Lila Kedrova and Nigel Davenport
As directed by Alexander Mackendrick, it is spare and unsentimental in its downward spiral toward tragedy. As one reviewer on the IMDb wrote, we can be thankful that Hughes’ novel did not fall into the hands of Walt Disney.