Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie's plot.
Swashbuckler (1976) Directed by James Goldstone
Durant: A gentleman knows when to use his sword and when to lay it down. Have you forgotten, Lynch, that was what you once were?
Lynch: I'm not a gentleman; I'm an Irishman!
Swashbuckler is a pirate movie all alone; they used to roam the waves of Hollywood, thick as thieves. Captain Blood, the Black Swan, Treasure Island, they were big money for big adventure. Then, like the western, they sort of faded away...
We have revitalized the genre with the immensely popular Pirates of the Caribbean Franchise, but in between, they were few and far between.
However, here is a forgotten gem. Lord Durant (Peter Boyle) has seized the governorship of Jamaica, and is using his position to pillage the coffers of the wealthy plantation owners. One such family is the Barnetts. The father, Sir James (Bernard Beherns) is thrown in the dungeon; his wife and daughter, Jane (Geneviève Bujold) are cast from their home, penniless. At the same time, a captured pirate is being taken to the gallows by Major Folly (a very young Beau Bridges). However, Nick Debrett's (James Earl Jones) neck is not destined to stretch yet, and he is rescued by an artillery heavy attack by the pirate ship, The Blarney Cock, Captain Red Ned Lynch (Robert Shaw) at the helm.
Later, the pirates engage in a bit of highway robbery, depriving Durant of some of the Barnett treasures. Lynch trades a cameo for a bit of the old slap and tickle with a local doxie. The real adventure starts when Jane Barnett sees her property decorating the cleavage of a trollop, and she goes to reclaim it. Their catfight is interrupted by a raid by the Governor's men. In the confusion, Jane is assaulted by a soldier, because there's always time for a little rape, right? And a pirate helpfully places a dagger in her hand. Now an outlaw, the pirates take her with them as they escape.
In the fine tradition of Maureen O'Hare, Jane is contemptuous of her rescuer, and high handed, which nets her nothing but amuses the pirates. Later, they set her ashore, an angry but perhaps wiser woman.
And the cat is among the canaries now, for Captain Lynch has been hit with the shrapnel from one of Cupid's broadsides.
And of course, the moment she is home again, Jane learns that Durant is fleeing with his ill-gotten bootie to England, but first, he will kill all political prisoners, including Sir Barnett. So now she must appeal to Captain Red Ned Lynch for his help to rescue her father, and prevent Durant from making his getaway.
What is not to love? You have an exact duplicate of The Golden Hinde, built for this movie, complete with a transsexual chicken as the figurehead. You have sword fights, and bar fights, and cat fights. You have doxies, and trollops, and nude swimming (yes, Geneviève Bujold gets quite naked). You have tumblers and acrobats, and trained monkey pickpockets. There are salacious limericks and Geoffrey Holder is a colourful rogue with a penchant for throwing daggers, and last second rescues. You have kicks to the crotch, and killer catamites with claws; what more could one ask for?
And for all the frenetic action, there is a lovely veracity to Robert Shaw as a pirate; he's a handsome man, but hardly "creamy" like Errol Flynn or Tyrone Power. (When Barbara Cartland was asked how a virgin could write with such detail about romance, she replied, "We didn't need sex; we had Tyrone Power.) James Earl Jones was also remarkable as the dynamic second mate. But none of the pirates are "leading man" good looking. Only the pathetic Major Folly really fits that bill.
But my favorite has to be Peter Boyle as the despicable Durant. Durant is surrounded by silent servants; the women are lovely and busty and mysterious; Angelica Huston appears in her first credited role as The Woman of Dark Visage. The men are large muscular, oiled black men. And there is one little blond boy with curls and white tights, and a smile that could adorn a satyr. (Mark Baker) And though nothing overt is said, you know that Durant was sleeping with all of them. The Hot Wax Scene with a very nervous Beau Bridges is a classic.
There is no message; there is no hidden agenda, there is no political statement hidden in any of the show; it is just a ripping good pirate yarn, and one I feel has been neglected for far too long.
AHOY, MATEYS! High adventure on the High Seas
Brethren: Raised by Wolves.
Matelots: Raised by Wolves
Treasure: Raised by Wolves
Wolves: Raised by Wolves
Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest.
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End.
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Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Fit for Friday Evening
Suitability For Children: Not suitable for Children of any age