Buccaneer’s Girl

Universal International Pictures must have thought it couldn’t miss with “Buccaneer’s Girl,” which came out in 1950 and stars Yvonne De Carlo and Philip Friend in a pirate adventure in New Orleans and the high seas. Friend possessed the talent and looks to do a swashbuckling (and in this case gentrified) pirate, and the lovely De Carlo can be a force when playing a proud and lusty heroine. Unfortunately, the chemistry between Friend and De Carlo seems forced, and they never really get down to any kind of convincing lovemaking. In addition, Robert Douglas plays a rather insipid vilain, which takes the fun out of the plot.

Yvonne De Carlo and Philip Friend in "Buccaneer's Girl."

Yvonne De Carlo and Philip Friend in “Buccaneer’s Girl.”

Like many pirate movies, this one begins with a raid on a ship — just after the captain assures the nervous passengers that the infamous pirate, Frederic Baptiste, will never attack the ship in calm waters. Of course, Baptiste (Friend) arrives presently, apprehends the crew and sends them off on the life boats into open water. During the scuffle, De Carlo, playing a character named Debby McCoy, climbs out of her hiding place, where she’s been a stowaway. The pirates take her aboard their ship, and threaten to cast her off on a sand bar. I expected Debby to get worse treatment, but it seems these pirates are not particularly nasty or out to do any harm except steal ships and cargo. They put up with Debby’s biting, scratching and kicking and even give her her own cabin.

Debby soon goes to New Orleans, where she meets a “charm school” owner named Madame Brizar (Elsa Lanchester). She’s got lots of pretty girls working for her, and they all entertain at various functions for the nobility and other rich patrons in New Orleans. Of course, the implication is Madame Brizar runs a brothel, especially since we don’t receive a satisfactory explanation for why Debby left Boston to stowaway to New Orleans. Perhaps she performed in the same business in Boston as well and saw some trouble up there. However, the charm school gives her the opportunity to meet Baptiste again.

When she does meet Baptiste, he arrives in an entirely new disguise — one which he takes great pains to conceal from the authorities — especially a certain Narbonne (Douglas), whose ships he’s been looting. As in any pirate movie, Baptiste is not all bad, and Narbonne is not all good. Debby arrogantly does what she wants, which makes it hard to fully sympathise with her. She never seems to be in real danger, and that hurts the film’s credibility. If she weren’t so streetwise, the romantic chemistry would work better.


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