Captain Kidd (Charles Laughton) hides a treasure in a Madagascar cave, assisted by a handful of untrusted fellow pirates, whom one after another Kidd betrays in Rowland V. Lee's 1945 swashbuckler Captain Kidd.
One of his minions, Orange Povey (John Carradine), survives the betrayal, & rejoins Kidd at a later date under circumstances more favorable to himself. If Povey does not return from their next sea journey, documents of Kidds' crimes will be forwarded to English authorities. Povey thus has no fear that he'll suffer the same fate as Kidds' other partners (a list of whom he keeps hidden & periodically checks off another one slain, the while chortling to his evil self).
Finagling a captaincy to the King, & being given a ship & an assignment off the east coast of Africa, Kidd selects a crew of condemned pirates, who'll earn a pardon by faithful naval service. Kidd has a plan by which others will be blamed for acts of piracy & he'll reclaim his hidden treasure plus such a heroic welcome home that he expects to score him property & a lord's title.
Unfortunate to his plan, among the criminals released into his service was Adam Mercy (Randolph Scott), secretly heir to the very lands Kidd hopes eventually to control. Mercy is actually Adam Blaine, son of Lord Blaine. He became Mercy in order to move among pirates looking for the truth of his father's murder & accusation of piracy. He must clear his father's name, avenge his death, & restore his own inheritance.
Great costumes, decent enough score & appealing cinematography, & wonderful sets, makes this a captivating film. Laughton as a key player in a swashbuckler is a mite odd as he lacks the body image & athleticism to be an action hero. He nevertheless has a couple swordplay moments that are effective, while Randolph Scott commands the majority of the action, the main duelling sequence being between Adam Mercy & the lustful Lorenzo (Gilbert Roland) since Laughton wouldn't've looked as stunning as Roland crossing swords with Scott.
Laughton makes for a "quietly maniacal" Captain Kidd, a commonor as well as a cutthroat longing for a lord's title & position. He murders with abandon & takes charge of a second treasure greater than the first, sparing from a destroyed ship only one life, a young Lady (Barbara Britton) for whom Spanish-blooded Lorenzo lusts, whose only protection is Adam Mercy.
Kidd's comeuppance will not occur until he strides before King William's throne at what he believes to be his moment of triumph, expecting a reward, but getting rather less. The film will close on Captain Kidd's curse from the gallows.
It's a stereotypical pirate yarn & yet quite a good show with the key players full of vinegar & conviction, especially Laughton who is simply a brilliant actor, & Scott who buckles a fine swash.
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