Often, the success of one film in theaters will bring on a wave of classics on DVD with a similar theme. In this case, the new films are Pirates of the Caribbean and Master and Commander. These modern box office successes have prompted 20th Century Fox to release some classic films about the high seas onto DVD. One such film is A High Wind in Jamaica.
There are quite a few problems with this film, but most of them lie within the narrative. The technical aspects are all handled well, wit… good lighting, and some pretty inventive camera work from time to time. Unfortunately, no matter how well a film is made, if the script is dull, so shall the film be. That seems to be the case here, as it appears that the director felt that the exotic peoples, places and locations would be interesting enough to cover for the fact that there really isn’t that much to do at sea. Well, they aren’t, and I was bored.
Another real problem with the film is that about half of the dialog is in Spanish, without subtitles. While I appreciate the effort to capture realism, I don’t appreciate the fact that half of the time the characters were talking behind my back. The dialog was hard enough to decipher when the pirates were speaking English. Mixing it in with Spanish makes the film even more confusing.
There were certainly some high points in the film, especially the casting of James Coburn as a cold and cruel, yet somehow likeable, outlaw. Overall, however, viewers should do themselves a favor, and watch one of the aforementioned modern films, instead.
I wasn’t too impressed by the audio available on this disc, even by classic film standards. Dolby Stereo is the best that you can do, and it’s not that great. Many of the sound effects in the film sound canned, as if they were stock audio clips that were not newly recorded for this film. Furthermore, much of the audio is bass heavy, with these lower tones coming in without very much definition. The whole of the soundtrack is really lacking the punch that an adventure film such as this one so desperately needs. Judging solely from the audio on this film, it would be abundantly clear that in the 60’s, dynamic audio was not a big concern.
Tell that to The Beatles.
While the audio is lacking, the video quality is much improved. Don’t let the opening credits fool you… it gets much better. Following this initial onslaught of dust, scratches and screen flicker, the picture cleans up considerably. The huge 2.35:1 aspect ratio does justice to the scale of the ship and the ocean, presenting a sweeping vision of the action portrayed on screen. Blemishes are kept to a minimum, and there are some nice deep black levels, especially considering the age of the film. Colors also look good, and they are typical of the hues that one might find in many films of this era.
Obviously, this is not going to look as good as painstakingly re-mastered films like Cleopatra or Lawrence of Arabia, but this is certainly a respectable transfer that plays surprisingly well on DVD.
There’s not much going on in the extras department, I’m afraid. The original theatrical trailer is included in English, and also in Spanish. Having seen the film, I understand why it is presented in both formats, as half of the film is in Spanish anyway.
That’s all the booty there is, as far as extras go. No production notes, no text bios of the cast and crew… just the trailers.
I am a fan of classic film, and it annoys me to no end when classics are remade into modern epics, so the public will go and see them. Luckily for me, this one is bland enough that it virtually guarantees itself to not be remade. I rarely say this kind of thing, but if you are looking for a good pirate movie, rent Pirates of the Caribbean. This is one classic that needs to be left in the past, and quickly forgotten.
Special Features List
- Theatrical Trailer
- Spanish Trailer