awkwardly

Wednesday

Pirates vs. Lighthouse Keeper

I picked up a good ol' VHS video at the thrift store, The Light at the End of the World. (That's the name of the movie, not the thrift store, which was a Salvation Army.) Initially I wasn't interested in the fact that it starred Kirk Douglas or Yul Brynner, nor by the cheesy cover illustration, a dude hanging from a rope by his foot below the ledge of a lighthouse. One of the bad guys pictured taunting the dangler carries a musket, and I realized they were supposed to be pirates attacking a lighthouse. Good enough for me.

The full movie isn't awesome, but it has a series of mitigating factor that make it fun if you like these kinds of things:
1. Based on a novel by Jules Verne.
2. Kirk Douglas.
3. Yul Brynner.
4. Kirk Douglas vs. Yul Brynner.
5. Pirates.

6. Lighthouse. Nothing inherently special about a lighthouse as far as I'm concerned, but it gives a false hit on your steampunk fan-bone if you have one of those. There's something about obsolete technologies that were widespread in their day, like lighthouses, airships and steampower. It makes you think about a culture where they had a stable system that wasn't growing faster than they could handle. (Maybe it was growing too quickly for some people, but we can look back on history with rose-colored glasses and stereotype it as stable.) If you had a steam-ipod, you'd have to learn all the damn little new controls, but at least you'd understand how the steam powered it. I think it's a yearning for stability and order. Who knows.
7. Pirates attacking a lighthouse!
8. Ambiguous period setting and ambiguous creation date. Obviously lighthouses were not staffed for very long into the Twentieth Century, but this could have been anywhere from 1800 to 1920 as far as I could tell. Unless I missed important dialogue at the start, they don't give enough clues or say the exact date until halfway through the movie. On top of that, you get mixed signals about what time period the movie was made in. It's in color so that narrows it down. On the other hand, Kirk Douglas doesn't look too old and it doesn't look very sharp or well done. The props and costumes look tacky. Could have been filmed in the Sixties or Seventies, but which? Those two mysteries kept me watching for clues, even when the action slowed to a crawl. Melinda asked what a star like Kirk Douglas was doing in such a low budget movie. When his name came up as Producer, I said there's your answer.
9. Pirates vs. Lighthouse Keeper vs. Animals. It's no big deal when humans stab and beat each other to death in a movie, but you really hate a villian when he offs somebody's pet. If you count a mountain goat shot for food, there are three animals other than humans that get flayed or eaten or euthanized in this movie.
10. Unexpected pathos. It's weird how much extra feeling they can wrench out of you by threatening pets in the movie, and also a minor character. Lots of innocents and pirates kill each other, but at one point the pirate captain's slave, a young black boy who hadn't attacked anyone in the movie, gets knocked down in a battle and dies. They make a big deal out of it, giving him a funeral pyre with close-ups of his face. None of the other pirates get this treatment. They didn't put much emphasis on his character earlier in the movie, but it gets drawn out after he dies and you feel a little sad for him.

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