Maureen O’Hara and Errol Flynn perform some wonderful swashbuckling action in “Against All Flags,” a glorious 1952 pirate movie that also stars Anthony Quinn. Flynn plays Brian Hawke, a Royal Navy officer working undercover to defeat a rowdy bunch of pirates working out of Madagascar. O’Hara plays a tough pirate captain named Prudence “Spitfire” Stevens with amazing swordsmanship and a knack for getting what she wants. The fun begins when Spitfire meets Brian, who she immediately takes to despite her inherent mistrust of any and all men. The grouchy Quinn, who plays Captain Roc Brasiliano, the main pirate, wants to quickly dispatch Hawke to a painful death.
The movie opens with a scene of Brian receiving a flogging on a British naval ship. Soon, the captain explains the flogging as a cover for Brian’s new assignment, which is to infiltrate the pirate’s nest on Madagascar. He’s to play a deserter who joins the pirates and learns as much as he can about their operations. On Madagascar, Brasiliano orders Brian to be taken prisoner, but Spitfire takes the opportunity to kiss him while he’s bound to a chair. Although Brian likes Spitfire as much as she likes him, her unpredictability and considerable fighting skills make approaching her too abruptly a dangerous proposition. Brasiliano also fancies Spitfire, but she will not be pushed into anything.
In order to gain Brasiliano’s confidence, Brian agrees to being his first mate. The first ship they seize turns out to be an Indian boat on a pilgrimage to Mecca. Brain warns him that taking such a ship will bring the full force of the British Navy down on him, but Brasiliano boards the ship and seizes the rich cargo of offerings and about a dozen maidens. Mildred Natwick plays the maidens’ English governess, and she’s hiding an Indian princess, Princess Patma, played by Alice Kelly. Naturally, the princess falls for Brian, which causes some later jealousy with Spitfire. Brasiliano orders the Princess to be sold as a wife for one of his men, and the auction becomes a spirited bidding war between Brian and Spitfire. She does her best to keep Patma away from him.
Brasiliano’s eventual showdown with Brian finally occurs, as the duo wages a swordfight to the death. Spitfire also impressively does some wonderful sword fighting, and she always acts like a true pirate. She softens only a few times during the film, which helps keep the pressure on Brian as he faces almost insurmountable odds.