BR: Anne of the Indies (1954)

July 31, 2019 | By

Film: Very Good

Transfer:  Very Good

Extras: n/a

Label:  Resen (Spain)

Region: B

Released:  Octover 14, 2013

Genre:  Action / Adventure

Synopsis: Female swashbuckler trades allegiance with Blackbeard for a duplicitous Frenchman in this buoyant actioner loosely based on Anne Bonny.

Special Features:  n/a




Although she’d made her film debut opposite Tyrone Power in the big budget historical adventure-drama Captain from Castile (1947), Fox put starlet Jean Peters through the familiar career-building programme by casting her in co-starring roles until a series of drop-outs in Anne of the Indies (1951) led to the actress earning the star part, and carrying the film solo.

Reportedly a project developed for Susan Hayward (The Conqueror, Woman Obsessed) by producer Walter Wanger (Arabian Nights, Invasion of the Body Snatchers) and action and occasional Fox producer George Jessel (Nightmare Alley), the brief recasting with Italy’s Valentina Cortesa (Les Miserables, Malaya, Barabbas) was followed by screen tests until Peters, sporting a long mane of curly black hair, was awarded the role – an interesting choice, especially since there are striking physical similarities between Hayward and Peters.

Peters could handle fiery roles – she tackled Castile‘s scrappy waif Catana with an amiable blend of gusto and romance, and Anne (aka Capt. Providence) feels like a not too distant cousin – but Fox played safe by larding the film with familiars: Louis Jourdan, Peters’ co-star in the hit Three Coins in the Fountain (1954); Castile co-star Thomas Gomez as Blackbeard; James Robertson Justice as Anne’s guardian and First Mate Red Dougal; and venerable Herbert Marshall as Dr. Jameson, the half-drunk, guilt-corroded, disgraced doctor who’s watched Anne devolve from a savvy pirate into a sadistic witch no man dares to challenge.

After the opening battle, Anne has her men walk all prisoners off the plank, and when Pierre (Jourdan) refuses to divulge his secret rendezvous during a Caribbean furlough, he’s whipped to near death until Jameson’s blunt talk saves her future lover, and the secretive couple make a pact to share a stash of riches.

What remains from Herbert Sass’ same-titled 1947 short story is unknown – Anne was based on (er, inspired by) the exploits of real life pirate Anne Bonny – but the script begun by the late Arthur Caesar and completed by Fox ‘s erudite scribe Philip Dunne (The Last of the Mohicans, The Robe, Blue Denim) is a fine, tight tale of the Brits and later Blackbeard hunting Anne to a ‘dead man’s’ sandbar, and an unusually stark finale.

The core story has Pierre saved from the plank due to appearing in chains, and once he wins over Anne, a romance develops in spite of a mounting suspicion by Anne’s First Mate (and us) than her handsome “Frenchie” isn’t what he seems. Events soon pit lovers against each other, as well as mentor Blackbeard, and in spite of the film’s restricted budget and B-plotting, the emerging conflicts are unusually adult for a 1950s programmer: apparently the censors were fine hearing “make love” a couple of times, and were also fine with dueling lovers as long as virtue, the sanctity of marriage, and an act of sudden decency brought the drama to a close.

Debra Paget, who co-starred with Jourdan in Fox’ big Technicolor version of Bird of Paradise (1951), has a small role as Molly, Anne’s sharped-eyed rival, and while she’s only present in the film’s second half, there’s some raw jabs between the women, with Anne asserting her power, and Molly flaunting her refined standing and morals.

That Anne doesn’t lose her edge and rely on Pierre is a credit to the screenwriters, but her shift from cruel to virtuous is pure movie morality: seeing the light, Anne fights her former mentor with force, albeit clearly sacrificing the lives of her men who at one point do revolt. Her complete end – being blown to bits – is inferred through a set of brisk edits – but the film’s plotting, intrigue, and the moral quandaries of he main characters are placed far above action.

Even if Fox didn’t want to spend half the cash on pirate fights as with their Tyrone Power classic The Black Swan (1942), all ship fights – with canons, swords, pyrotechnics, and hand-to-hand – are weirdly truncated; either filmed material was cut prior to release, or the script was whittled down to keep the budget and running time tight. Anne’s opening assault on a British ship excepted, all later battles look as though whole centres were hacked out, especially in the finale in which there’s no lead up to, no extended effects of, nor eventual conclusion to a crew-wide mutiny – a refutation by the men of Anne’s attempt to camouflage and protect lover Pierre, Molly, and Jameson.

To Peters’ credit, it doesn’t take long to accept her as hard-edged pirate, and her handful of sword fights show Fox made sure audiences were treated to swordplay in wide, unbroken cuts – proof Peters did some training and rendered Anne as a skilled, fast-thinking protege of Blackbeard. Gomez plays the elder pirate quite grandly, and Blackbeard’s cruelty, cheating, and binge-drinking aren’t tempered. There’s enough gravitas in Gomez’ performance (and the script) that make it clear Blackbeard’s not happy when forced to fire and ultimately obliterate Anne at the end.


The American campaign: a ruffian in Technicolor!


The French campaign: charging with dagger, saber, and one unbridled breast!


The Italian campaign: Anne the Thinking Squatter, weighing the consequences of Romance and Possible Betrayal!


Harry Jackson’s cinematography is rich with amber, blues, reds, and green, but the Spanish Blu-ray seems to be using an almost automatic colour grading, which boosts what may have resided in a faded print. It’s still a sharp, clean transfer, but the colours are more wan pastel that vibrant Technicolor, and dark night shots have visible compression.

Franz Waxman’s score is boisterous, and while is main theme sounds like a variation of Prince Valiant (1954), the action, romance, and dramatic cues are strong, giving the production extra gloss. Much of Peters’ later films for Fox were co-starring roles, which perhaps contributed to her decision to fight the studio’s suspension after A Man Called Peter (1955), her final feature film role. Peters soon retired, became Mrs. Howard Hughes, and starting in 1973, returned briefly to acting in a handful of TV productions before formally retiring in 1988.

Jacques Tourneur’s direction is solid, and the former horror & suspense director’s switch to exotica would yield  Way of a Gaucho (1952) and Appointment in Honduras (1953), plus several westerns in film and TV.



© 2019 Mark R. Hasan





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