Synopsis by Bruce Eder
Squire Trevenyan (Peter Cushing), magistrate of an 18th century coastal village where a little smuggling has always gone on (and been tolerated), learns that a group of wreckers have moved into the district, destroying ships and slaughtering their survivors in order to steal the cargo. The local populace, consisting mostly of tradesmen, honest fishermen and some part-time smugglers, all want the wreckers stopped, and appeal to the squire; but Trevenyan also learns that his son Christopher (John Fraser) is involved with the daughter of a tradesman who receives stolen goods. He intends to act on wreckers and smugglers alike, and gets the support of the local nobility (Miles Malleson). But then Christopher Trevenyan is caught up in a killing -- in self-defense -- of one of the wreckers, and the squire is so certain of the corruption of the village, that he declines to use his son as a witness against the wreckers. Rather, he brings in soldiers and starts a campaign against the smugglers and fishermen, the wreckers' leader, Black John (Bernard Lee), standing with him and diverting attention from himself. The citizenry appeals to a local highwayman known as the Captain (William Franklyn), who proceeds to kidnap Christopher, with a vow to kill him if two convicted men are transported to a colony. The squire is now trapped -- Black John, who is eager for the sentences to be carried out so that the troops can be withdrawn and his wreckers return to work, threatens to denounce him if he delays deporting the men; and Trevenyan rationalizes his decision as being in keeping with the law, even though it will cost his son's life. The only way out for the innocent parties on all sides can come from Christopher's bravery and the Captain's sense of honor, and the slim chance that they find a common goal that will spare young Trevenyan's life.
bad-guy, battle [war], blackmail, boating, conflict, crew, death, fear, fishing, gangster, good-guy, help, killing, love, lure [tempt], magistrate, outlaw [Western], pirate [seafarer], protection, sea, smuggling, son, swashbuckler, terrorism, village