Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Monday, 8 July 2013

Summer fun: Seven seas to Calais

Make ready the topsails! Rod Taylor portrays English seafaring captain Sir Francis Drake in this sword-clanging, swashbuckling adventure told in bold, colorful strokes that include Drake's circumnavigation of the globe, a mutiny at sea, raids that brought England a wealth of Spanish gold, Spain's foiled scheme to supplant Queen Elizabeth (and replace her with Mary of Scotland) and Drake's daring battle at sea that left the mighty Spanish Armada in ruins. Three-time Tony Award winning Broadway legend Irene Worth essays the politically crafty Elizabeth who convinces Spanish ambassadors that she loathes Drake's privateering while secretly financing him. In the same month that SEVEN SEAS TO CALAIS was released in the USA, Taylor would find more onscreen foes - this time not at sea but in the air, when he starred in Hitchcock's memorable THE BIRDS.

SEVEN SEAS TO CALAIS. How I wish I had seen this back in 1962, the 16 year old me would have enjoyed it even more than I did now. Old hand Rudolph Mate directs this MGM-released European swashbuckler about Sir Francis Drake and his adventures in the New World (where they meet some very friendly Natives), as well as destroying that Armada (after his finishes his game of bowls of course), as well as court intrigue involving The Queen (Elizabeth I) and plots against her by Mary Queen of Scots. It romps along like a “Classics Illustrated” comic taking in all those Tudor highpoints. That new vegetable the potato makes its first appearance too and that’s an amusing tale as well. 

The cast is headed by two Australians – Rod Taylor, just before Hitchcock summoned him to Bodega Bay – and Keith Michell, that very physical actor who looked good in period clothes, as indeed does Rod here, being his usual charming self. Its Michell though who has the love interest, with the Lady Arabella (Hedy Vessel – one of the lesser Eurobabes). It all looks terrific and the big plum here is renowned stage actress Irene Worth (so good in that 1983 SEPARATE TABLES, as per recent review here) as Elizabeth I – an incisive portrait of the Queen to add to those by Flora Robson, Bette Davis, Glenda Jackson, Cate Blanchett, Helen Mirren etc. My only quibble is that it all looked too over-lit, and the models of the Armada fleet were a little too obvious. Jolly good fun. 
Rod Taylor was, like James Garner, the definition of "amiable '60s leading man" in those movie reference books, from GIANT and SEPARATE TABLES to THE TIME MACHINE and THE VIPs., we also like him as YOUNG CASSIDY - see label.. There can't be too many actors who have worked with Hitchcock, Antonioni (ZABRISKIE POINT), Ford and Tarantino! 

Keith Michell of course played that great HENRY VIII on tv and film, and I saw him as Henry on the stage in THE KINGS MARE in 1966, with Glynis Johns and Jane Merrow, and I met them all after. He also played in those Rank Organisation costume mellers I like: DANGEROUS EXILE with Belinda Lee in '57 and in Losey's THE GYPSY AND THE GENTLEMAN in '58. I also saw him circa 1970 in the hit play ABELARD & HELOISE with Diana Rigg, and in that BBC production of Wilde's AN IDEAL HUSBAND

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