>> Saturday, April 20, 2013
...Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!
Drink and the devil had done for the rest--
...Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!"
That little ditty, invented by Robert Louis Stevenson for his adventure novel, Treasure Island,is the primary reason why we associate pirates with rum to this day. Sure, the alcoholic buccaneers featured in Stevenson’s story were not without historical precedent. Eighteenth century privateers traded rum and sailors of all sorts certainly drank it; but after the publication of Treasure Island it was impossible to disassociate pirates from their drink of choice.
Not only is Treasure Island the most important of all pirate tales; it is also the most often filmed. The story has been adapted for film and television more than fifty times, including multiple silents, iconic MGM and Disney classics, animated shorts and features, and a Muppetized version. However, the most faithful and in my opinion the best of all of the Treasure Island movies was a 1990 made-for-television production, produced, written, and directed by Fraser Clarke Heston (the son of the most forceful of all ham actors, Charlton Heston).
Don’t let the fact that the picture was produced for basic cable stop you from seeking out Fraser Heston’s take on the oft-filmed tale. The production values are excellent (with the tall ship from the 1962 version of Mutiny on the Bounty standing in for the Hispanola), the cinematography is lush, and the soundtrack by The Chieftains is appropriately seaworthy. Best of all is the cast. A teenage Christian Bale makes an admirable Jim Hawkins; noted drunkard Oliver Reed is perfectly cast as the boozy Billy Bones; and Christopher Lee is wonderfully slimy as Blind Pew. Finally, in the pivotal role of Long John Silver, Heston has cast his dad. I’ve never been a big fan of the over-actor I like to call “Cheston.” However, Cheston makes one of the best movie Silvers, capturing both the ruthlessness and the folksy charm that the part requires.
Drinks Consumed--Rum (with water and straight), port wine, and ale
Intoxicating Effects--Harmonizing, staggering, slurred speech, bickering, brawling, physical violence, passing out, and death
Potent Quotables--DR. LIVESEY (to Billy Bones): I have only one thing to say to you, sir. If you keep on drinking rum, the world will soon be quit of a very dirty scoundrel.
DVD (Warner Brothers)
Similarly Sauced Cinema--Cheston, Oliver Reed, and Christopher Lee also co-starred in the best adaptation of Alexandre Dumas’ swashbuckler with The Three Musketeers (1973) and The Four Musketeers (1974).