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Treasure Island starring Orson Welles

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Mark Suszko
Treasure Island starring Orson Welles
on Apr 30, 2013 at 6:54:42 pm

I finally got to watch this 1972 version on a pretty bad VHS copy, it was a Christmas gift from my ever-so-thoughtful wife. While Wallace Beery owns the role for his iconic, though broad performance, I'd have to give a close second to Orson's more reserved and menacing Long John ( or "Old Barbecue", his other alias, delivered with WAY more suggested evil than Beery could ever muster). Both are WAY better than Heston's version.

The first half of the film set in the Admiral Benbow was amusing because the actor playing "captain Billy Bones", is played by Lionel Stander, the same actor that was Max the driver/butler in the TV series 'Hart to Hart", and I couldn't get past the typecasting. If you close your eyes, though, he could almost be Earnest Borgnine, and THAT would be an awesome Capt. Bill OR Long John as well.

Welles is by far the best thing in this movie. He's fascinating to watch here, and his choice of wardrobe, particularly the hat, makes him look like he stepped out of a Pyle or Parrish painting. So thick does he lay on the dialect here, that you sometimes have to struggle to hear it on the bad soundtrack, but he runs over it as smoothly, convincingly, and liltingly as any lines of Shakespeare. Welles didn't direct this, but a few of the shots and cuts look like he had an influence. The hand-held camerawork is not great, nor is the overdubbing on some of the actors.

The sound track is miserable; the music a sickly mix of early synth pads and cheesy orchestrations. You want to just rase everything and lay down some Korngold over it.

If you are a Welles fan, you will forgive much o all this to see him chew up the scenery. I was happy I got to see it.


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