Fair Wind to Java (1953)
Good or bad, there’s always something that grabs my attention about a seafaring adventure from yesteryear when it comes to movies. Sure this Fred MacMurray title falls closer to bad than good but who cares, it’s a harmless 87 minutes of “B” movie fun.
It’s the West Indies of 1883 and Fred is commanding a ship meant to transport goods for the company he’s hired on to. Trying to capture our interest from the outset, Fred and his crewman including Victor McLaglen and Paul Fix outrun a pirate ship before setting ashore in a shady port. Fred will soon rendezvous with a heavily made up Philip Ahn to receive a solid lead on the whereabouts of a cache of diamonds.
Ahn will die for his secrets at the hand of nasty Robert Douglas who quickly sets himself up as Fred’s nemesis for the balance of the film.
Paging Yvonne De Carlo! Paging Yvonne De Carlo!
Sadly Miss De Carlo wasn’t available so Herbert J. Yates’ one time personal project Vera Ralston turns up as a slave girl who holds the key to the diamonds. Fred buys her and secretly sneaks her aboard his ship. Slavery has been outlawed and when John Russell as Fred’s second in command discovers what’s going on, blackmail creeps in to the plot.
“Let’s divide her up.” say the crew upon discovering the rather wooden Ralston. I’m kind of biased after reading far to many books on the Duke and his association with Republic Studios where Ralston was constantly being nominated as Duke’s leading lady. Yates did get her in to Dakota and The Fighting Kentuckian and at one point wanted her to star with the western icon in The Alamo during that film’s initial planning in the late forties.
Fred has to step in and fight for the lady’s welfare in an all at bar room styled brawl atop his ship which leads to the best scene in the film. He berates her for appearing on the deck which led to the attempted rape and barely able to stand after the beating he took defending her, he decks her flat out. Not something I expected.
It’s also rather funny when she needs a change of clothes, Fred tells one of his minions to get her a dry set. Next scene she’s dressed to the hilt looking like an Island Queen. I guess Fred’s cargo and goods must be veils and women’s garments of the times.
Thankfully Fred and Vera will soon hit it off romantically but when Douglas and his pirates turn up, they get waylaid in the journey to the diamonds. Douglas knows as well that she is the key and whisks her away leaving Fred and his crew in an island prison.
Can strong man McLaglen lead a revolt and save the day? Can Fred get his girl back and find the diamonds? Did I mention that Krakatoa is about to blow sky high?
Well as you can see, there’s quite a bit of plot packed in here and though it’s fun, the budget betrays it somewhat but it’s a passable “B” from director Joseph Kane.
Keye Luke turns up here as well. The one time Number One Son of Warner Oland’s Charlie Chan by this time was relegated to an unbilled role as Douglas’ cohort and unless I’m mistaken has even been dubbed. Saddens me to see him here as I’ve always had a soft spot for Keye due to my love of the Chan films and his on screen chemistry with Oland.