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Pandora And The Flying Dutchman
United Kingdom 1951
Directed by Albert Lewin
Running time 123 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars


Pandora And The Flying Dutchman is quite an intriguing film for it combines on the one hand traditional upper-class English values, represented by British-born James Mason’s implacably dignified Flying Dutchman and, on the other ,over-heated Hollywood romance (represented by American-born Ava Gardener ’s quivering femme fatale, Pandora, with both actors fetishized by the camera in equal proportions

Pandora is the avatar of the wife the Dutchman once murdered because he suspected her, falsely, of infidelity and due to his raging against the gods (although as this was in the 17th century we’re down to one God) and as a result was condemned to sail the seven seas until he finds a woman willing to die for him, which is of course the Pandora he finds in this community of typically English chaps doing typically English things like breaking the world land speed record (in the case of Nigel Patrick), collecting archeological fragments (in the case of Harold Warrender) or tragically drinking themselves to death (in the case of Marius Goring) on a fishing village on the Spanish littoral.

On one level it is a damn silly story and the film stumbles particularly with a sub-plot involving a bull-fighter (Mario Cabré) smitten by Pandora and introduced simply to demonstrate the Dutchman’s immorality.  But to cavil about the contrived plot and preciosity of its realization is to throw the baby out with the bathwater for it is precisely the film’s anti-naturalism, amply influenced by 1940's British Surrealist and Romanticist painting on the art direction and the marvellous Technicolor cinematography by Jack Cardiff, who is best known for his work on the films of Powell and Pressburger, that is the film’s winning hand. Indeed the film could well have been directed by Powell and Pressburger as writer-director-producer Albert Lewin’s literary script and heavily symbolizing directing is very much in their style. The result is that along with films such as The Red Shoes (1948), Pandora And The Flying Dutchman is a gorgeous jewel of British film-making.

FYI: The tavern "Las Dos Tortugas" is the Spanish equivalent for "The Two Turtles" which was the tavern in Albert Lewin's earlier The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945)

 

 

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