Captain Kidd seeks revenge on old shipmates, and is trying to get a title so he can quit piracy and live in comfort. Randolph Scott is trying to stop him.
Yup, Randolph Scott in a pirate movie, who’d have thought? This movie has a really excellent cast: Charles Laughton as the eponymous Kidd, Scott as the son of the man Kidd blamed his own piracy on, and Gilbert Roland and John Carradine as two of Kidd’s cronies. And Henry Daniell (who plays King William III (William of Orange), who died in 1694, seven years before Kidd was actually tried and executed.)
So we’re having the New Year’s Day Videofest (theme: Pirates) and this one is chosen (randomly). Mr. Hair and Mr. Otter both make retching noises and start telling us how bad it is, but the Squirrel Lady and I are unmoved. We put it on…and amazingly enough, they were wrong. This was really pretty good.
Now, it’s not a blood-and-thunder sword-swinging extravaganza, and certainly Charles Laughton is no Errol Flynn. But he IS an excellent actor, and this movie, which is a total rewrite of Kidd’s career, was perfect for him.
Kidd is old and ready to retire, and trying to wangle a title. He’s being sly and treacherous, playing both ends against the middle, and making veiled accusations and insinuations and false promises right and left. As I said to Mr. Hair, he had ‘menacing blandness’, which almost made Mr. Hair fall off the couch laughing.
But it’s true. Over and over again in this movie, Laughton will be talking to someone, and it’s just mild talk, but the subtext and overtones are GREAT. No, it’s not exciting, or thrill-a-minute, and you know that Randolph Scott will eventually come out on top… but to tell the truth, I was rooting for Charles Laughton.
And maybe, the next time I watch it, he’ll pull it off and sail into the sunset. Maybe.