The Master of Ballantrae
This tale takes place in 18th century Scotland at the start of the British insurrection. The Durrisdeer family are determined to keep their lands, and so each son is to draw lots to see who fights for which side. Young Henry (Anthony Steel) sides with King George II's forces, and Jaimie - the Master of Ballantrae (Flynn) - joins up with the Stuart clan.
The battle goes badly for Bonnie Prince Charlie's cause, and Jamie - along with Irish comrade Francis Burke (Roger Livesey) - make arrangements with Henry to meet discretely for funds to escape the country. When plans go awry, Jamie blames his brother for treachery and they fight. Henry believes his brother killed and runs off to get the family servant MacKeller, only to find the body missing upon his return. Burke has fetched the wounded Jamie, and they start on their journey together across the ocean.
The next part of the film involves Jamie and Burke's shifting associations among pirate crews and a gradual rise in ranks on the high seas in an effort to amass wealth and retire far from the conflict back home. But Jamie first has a score to settle with his brother, and so the partners return to Scotland.
The two pay a visit to Durrisdeer castle. "Mister Bally's" appearance comes at a time when there is a celebration held in honour of Henry's engagement to the family ward - and Jamie's former betrothed - Lady Alison (Beatrice Campbell). Amidst a hall saturated with English officials and soldiers, Jamie challenges his brother. And, of course, despite some brilliant swordplay (with the brothers fighting together), the two visitors are overwhelmed and sentenced to hang the next morning.
There is a secret which comes with the parting gift of a family ring; it leads to their escape (but not before Jaimie learns that it was his mistress who betrayed him those years ago). Together with Alison, the three make their escape.
There is little resemblance to the novel by Robert Louis Stevenson (of Treasure Island fame), which consisted primarily of MacKellar's journal entries. A break in the narrative of the book for a letter received by the family from Francis Burke recounting Jaimie's piratical exploits appears to have been the focus of the film, with the rest tossed aside. In fact, the title character of The Master of Ballantrae is a fairly ruthless and unlikeable person, who takes advantage of the family resources to accommodate his own wanderlust (in fact, the book ends with the brothers perishing in America).
This was the first film Errol Flynn made in Europe following his "escape" from the States (as well as from taxes and alimony). The movie was shot in England and Scotland. Although it was made a year after Against All Flags, Flynn actually looks younger and somewhat less bleary-eyed. Perhaps the change of scenery did him good? William Keighley directed (Prince & the Pauper and parts of Adventures of Robin Hood).
The movie is available on Warner Home Video in NTSC format. It may not be The Seahawk, but it IS entertaining. I recommend either renting it if you have the resource, or catching it on American Movie Classics. Decide for yourself.
to Jamie - and the key to his liberation. Burke (Roger Livesey) observes.
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