VIDEO ARCHIVES NOTES: This movie was discussed on the December 6, 2022 episode of the Video Archives podcast and can be found on their site here.
Kevin Billington was the son of a factory worker who ended up marrying Lady Rachel Billington. He was also a director of plenty of TV movies, like a well-considered BBC version of Henry VIII. He ended up directing this international collaboration of French, Spanish and Italian producers. They paid Kirk Douglas an estimated $1 million dollars to star, which is about $7.2 million in today’s money.
Will Denton (Kirk Douglas) runs an isolated lighthouse to hide from a failed romance and the fact that he killed a man in self-defense. The only people he ever speaks to are the crew, Captain Moriz (Fernando Rey) and assistant Felipe (Massimo Ranieri). They watch over a very strategic trade route near the Tierra del Fuego archipelago at the southern tip of South America.
Yet in one horrible moment, it all changes, as Captain Jonathan Kongre (Yul Brynner) and his pirates — they include actors from Sergio Leone’s films, such as Luis Barboo, Víctor Israel and Aldo Sambrell — kill Moriz and Felipe, smash the lighthouse signal and start to loot everything they can. Surviving their attack along with an Italian sailor named Montefiore (Renato Salvatori), they begin to fight back.
Kongre has also made a change in his life. He always kills everyone on the ships that he takes over, but he’s fallen for one of the women on board, Arabella (Samantha Eggar). Denton tries to save her, but when Montefiore is caught and slowly killed, he puts his friend out of his misery, just as Kongre angrily gives the woman to his crew. Denton sinks the ship and it ends up with just the two men, battling each other to the death inside the lighthouse.
If you’re expecting a light hearted Jules Verne adventure, well, this is as rough as it gets. It’s about a broken man trying to just live out his days coming up against a sophisticated villain who loves murder and carnage. I mean, they kill Douglas’ monkey. That’s how horrible the bad guys are. They deserve everything they get.