Tuesday, January 9, 2024

Classic TV Flashback: The Buccaneers (1956)

The Buccaneers
Debut: September 19, 1956
Starring:  Robert Shaw, Paul Hansard, Brian Rawlinson, Edwin Richfield
Synopsis: On New Providence, Captain Dan Tempest, an ex-pirate turned privateer for the Crown, forms an uneasy alliance with Lt. Beamish, the deputy governor, to fight the King's enemies in the Caribbean.

Trey: The Buccaneers was Sapphire Films drama series for ITC Entertainment, broadcast by CBS in the US and ATV and regional ITV companies in the UK. It was somewhat aimed at kids and ran for 39 episodes until June 12, 1957.

We watched episode 12 from December 5, 1956, "Dan Tempest and the Amazons." It was written by Peggy Phillips and Zachary Weiss. I picked this episode because I was intrigued about how they were going to fit Amazons in with Pirates. Bait and switch!

Jason: "Amazons" isn't perhaps the most obvious descriptor of the women here, no. The first couple of minutes of the show were such a showcase for a peculiar 18th century piratical brand of sexism (as presented in this mid-20th century production) that I began to fear the episode would be unfit for review other than finger-wagging condemnation from the 21st century. As the plot unfolded, matters took a (somewhat!) more progressive turn, while remaining peculiar.

Trey: Yes, the women, potential brides looking for prospects in the New World, who have been kidnapped and held for ransom by a "French" (I use that term only loosely as the actors inconsistent and half-hearted attempts at an accent don't rate. I've heard better accents around a D&D table.) pirate. Ultimately, the women prove surprisingly capable and free themselves.

Jason: And that brief sketch probably telegraphs the light-hearted tone of the episode. It's that variety of corny, "battle of the sexes" humor. It ignores the unsavory potential of the situation, keeps the violence gentle slapstick, the references to adult themes mostly veiled, and the sense of peril muted. As a result, there are few swashes successfully buckled. 

Trey: Certainly not. Tempest and his sea dogs are routed by matrons and maids. Of course, one could say that this was due to the men's sexist tendency to underestimate the women. Still, not stuff likely to form the basis of childhood, wood sword derring-do. 

Jason: A glance at the episode listings online suggest this episode may have been an anomaly, a breather from all the action of previous episodes. Sorry kids, no Blackbeards or El Supremos this time around.   

I was excited to see some early work by the legendary Robert Shaw, but I must admit to some degree of disappointment. Am I wrong here or was his performance phoned in? Maybe he just didn't have much to work with this episode?

Trey: Definitely seems phoned in. Hopefully it was just a story he could get behind, not his approach to the whole show.

Jason: Unlike previously reviewed half-hour action/drama shows (like M Squad!), notable for their hyper-condensed plots, The Buccaneers just felt simplistic. Again, this is a show intended for children.

Trey: Not more simplistic but sort of stretched. It could have done with at least another twist or complication. Again, though is it the show or merely this episode?

Jason: I think it would be interesting to try another episode to see if maybe we just picked a clunker this time around. I'm sure I can spare another 25 minutes sometime!

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