1939 Period drama
Story concerns a gang of smugglers and shipwreckers on the Cornish coast in the early 19th century and the district squire who is their undercover brains. Young naval officer joins the band to secure evidence against them and a young girl who comes from Ireland to stay with her aunt saves him from being hanged by the desperadoes.
Balance of the story is a development of the chase technique. Atmosphere of the seacoast and the moors is strikingly recreated and the action scenes have a headlong rush. Also, there are frequent bits of brilliant camera treatment and injections of salty humour. It's a typical Hitchcock direction job and remarkable when you consider that he didn't much care for Laughton or his character's dual nature.
Laughton makes the over-the-top best in the only over-the-top way that he could do of his colourful, sinister part. It was a bloody danger that with him and that other contender for the Ham Championship of the World, Robert Newton, in the same picture that it would have sunk under its weight of ham but it manages to stay afloat. The young Maureen O'Hara is stunning here and plays adequately in the limited confines of the ingenue part.
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