A High Wind in Jamaica (1964)

Genres - Action, Adventure  |   Sub-Genres - Swashbuckler, Adventure Drama  |   Release Date - Jun 16, 1965 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 100 min.  |   Countries - United Kingdom  |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Craig Butler

A High Wind in Jamaica is a curiosity. It doesn't quite work, either as a pirate flick or as an adaptation of the Richard Hughes novel that is its source, but it's odd enough that one likes it in spite of its failings. In truth, it would probably have been a much better (and certainly more consistent) movie if it had either been much more or much less faithful to the book. Had it kept nothing more than the general premise of kids stuck on a pirate ship, it could have mad ea glorious, superficial adventure-on-the-seas story. Had it stay more faithful, it could have been an engrossing, involving exploration of the peculiar moral system that comes with childhood and the dangers that system can bring to adults. In its present form, Jamaica falls between those two stools. There's certainly plenty of action and adventure, but not enough to float the whole film. And the plot and characterizations that have been retained lack the depth and the commitment necessary: we SEE the characters behave in certain ways, but the film never really examines or delves into the motivation behind the behavior. In spite of this, director Alexander MacKendrick has given the film a beautiful look and directs the action and the character scenes quite well -- but without making them mesh together. The leads are splendid, with Anthony Quinn and James Coburn adding dimension to their roles while displaying a chemistry befitting this duo. Best of all is Deborah Baxter as Emily, whose performance rings true from start to finish. The audience may never understand exactly why she behaves the way she dos, but there's no doubt that the actress does.