Friday, January 18, 2013


This would-be historical epic, made on a budget way too low to provide any epic qualities, begins with Captain John Smith (Anthony Dexter), one of the founders of the Jamestown colony in Virginia in 1607, telling his story to King James I. Smith's men are at odds with Wingfield (James Seay) and his followers, who are out for private glory and gold rather than settling a new land, so Smith is accused of mutiny and held on board a ship headed back to England. He manages to escape, swims to shore, and witnesses a band of Indians preparing to attack. Smith blames Wingfield's brutal treatment of them for the attack, but he joins Wingfield in fighting the Indians off, though they wind up with few supplies. Smith takes two men, Rolfe (Robert Clarke) and Fleming (Alan Hale Jr.), and sets out to make peace with the Indian chief Powhatan (Douglass Dumbrille). They have a friendly encounter with Powhatan's daughter Pocahontas (Jody Lawrence) while she's bathing in a pond, but Powhatan still decides to kill the white men. As Smith is about to be beheaded, Pocahontas throws herself on Smith and begs her father to spare his life. Powhatan agrees to, but Smith must marry Pocahontas in order to cement the peace between the Indians and the settlers. Back in Jamestown, Pocahontas teaches the British how to live off the land; meanwhile, Wingfield's men find gold and plot to keep it, leading to tensions with Smith's men and the Indians. After some action involving gold and weapons, Smith goes back to England, and Pocahontas stays in Jamestown, having fallen in love with Rolfe.

This plays like a dramatized documentary that I might have seen back in elementary school in the 60s. The actual events are, I'm guessing, simplified and/or fictionalized; the sets are adequate; the acting is all over the place. Dexter (pictured on the right with Seay on the left) is wooden; Dumbrille seems to be trying for threatening but dignified, though he often just seems constipated; Seay—who I know as Kris Kringle's doctor in MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET)—is sufficiently schemey-evil but not very energetic; Hale (the Skipper on Gilligan's Island) is cheery and hearty in his few scenes; Lawrence barely registers at all. Best is Clarke who is far more appealing than Dexter—it's a shame the movie didn't center on him. Directed by Lew Landers, an old pro at B-movies, with little visual flair. This movie doesn't crop up much, though oddly it is out on a burn-on-demand DVD. Even though it's not a particularly good film, I’m thankful that TCM aired it last Thanksgiving week. [TCM]

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