BLACKBEARD’S GHOST directed by Robert Stevenson (USA, 1968)
What was your favourite movie when you were 10?
At that age, my tastes were strongly dictated by Disney so mine would have been a toss-up between Jungle Book and Blackbeard’s Ghost. The latter would probably have narrowly won by a hair of the dread pirate’s ragged whiskers.
Watching it again now, I can guess that one of main appeals was the way it pitched underdog outsiders against crooks and jocks.
It is based very loosely on real life 18th century pirate Edward Teach and a novel by Ben Stahl.
Blackbeard’s spirit has been wandering in limbo following a curse put on him by his aggrieved wife Aldetha as she was being burnt at the stake as a witch.
By chance he returns to the land of the living after Steve Walker (Dean Jones) , a new sports coach for Godolphin College, chances upon a spell to resurrect him. Walker is the only person who can see him.
The story that ensues has the same level of anarchy, energy and improbability as an episode of Scooby Doo. Blackbeard intervenes to help the athletically challenged College team win a prestigious sports event and then helps defeat an unscrupulous gang of property developers led by smarmy Silky Seymour.
Peter Ustinov is in his element, clearly relishing the role of Blackbeard. The swashbuckling anti-hero’s propensity for rum and ‘wenches’ makes him a lovable rogue.
By unorthodox means he convinces the straight-laced Walker that doing the right thing doesn’t always mean playing by the rules. Inevitably the coach wins the day and the girl.
The, perhaps unwitting, moral of the tale is that justice and morality do not always go hand in hand; an important lesson for any 10-year-old to learn.