Sea Fury (1958)
Mike’s Take on Stanley Baker Movies ……. Day 7
On one hand this adventurous sea faring tale left me with a sour taste in my mouth by the time I approached the two thirds mark but thankfully the plot or should I say the ship is righted and a heroic Stanley Baker is on hand to save the day and claim the fair maiden for himself …… let me explain.
Baker arrives in a small coastal Spanish town looking for work on a tugboat commanded by Ford favorite Victor McLaglen in his final screen role. Unable to make headway in meeting McLaglen, Baker turns to Vic’s lead hand on board, the slippery Robert Shaw, who promptly cheats Baker of some cash while never making the introductions. Along comes the playful Luciana Paluzzi whom Baker flirts with and ultimately fights over with another sailor. McLaglen seeing the fight takes a liking to the feisty Baker and a friendship begins. Baker finds himself hired aboard the tugboat and might have found a girl in Paluzzi.
Now about that sour taste. Paluzzi has a pimp for a father who expects his fully developed daughter to land an elderly man of wealth so he can live a life of ease. (right about now I’d rewrite the script and have Baker put a bullet in this guy after first pounding the &*^^%* out of him …. but lets get back to the actual script). The mark is McLaglen who himself at an age of 72 has fallen for the 21 year old Paluzzi and like a schoolboy buys a sexy dress and black lingerie to boot. Doesn’t sit well with me. Is it because old Vic wasn’t a matinee idol? Would I have felt any different if her senile suitor was say Clark Gable? Perhaps. As it stands, it just comes across as if McLaglen is a dirty old man about to molest a virginal young woman. The scene where McLaglen convinces the Italian beauty to try on his fetish outfit is embarrassing for a man of McLaglen’s age as he gets sexually worked up to the point of a coronary. Remember what I said earlier? This is indeed his final film.
So if this is a three way triangle, it isn’t one of love as Paluzzi has eyes only for Baker. When McLaglen promotes Baker to run the ship as his second in command, the crew led by Robert Shaw aren’t overly excited about it and when Shaw discovers that Baker and Paluzzi are an item behind the Captain’s back, he blows the whistle sending McLaglen into a drunken rampage and itching for an epic rematch with The Quiet Man but Baker might have to do.
The final third of the film is the highlight thanks to Baker playing the hero and some outstanding special effects that sees Baker lead the tugboat out in rough seas to save an abandoned ship from sinking to the ocean depths. It’s a mixture of models and what are probably stage reproductions of a deck and a ship’s hold where explosive canisters are in danger of igniting unless our leading man can save the day. Hats off to director and frequent Baker collaborator Cy Endfield for bringing a harrowing realism to the proceedings that lead to the fade out and happy ending for all involved.
Sea Fury was one of six films that Baker worked alongside American director Cy Endfield, Zulu being their biggest hit while Hell Drivers remains a heavy favorite among Baker fans. While Baker seems to be best remembered as more of a tough villain or loner, here he gets to play the romantic hero and does justice to the role with Miss Paluzzi making for an eye catching love interest. So fetching is the young lass that might I have been a bit a harsh on McLaglen’s role? No. It’s still leaving a sour taste. Not to pick on old Vic but if the role had been taken on by a forty something actor like say, Ernie Borgnine or Tony Quinn, it might have played a bit more believable.
Spotlighting character actors, you’ll be sure to recognize Francis de Wolff as a competitor in the tug boat business, Gregoire Aslan, Rupert Davies and Percy Herbert amongst the crew and as for Robert Shaw? Shaw had made an appearance in an earlier Baker film, A Hill In Korea and would go on to star in the greatest sea faring adventure of them all. No it’s not the Poseidon Adventure or Gilligan’s Island either. No, I’m not saying the name because if you don’t know, I can only hang my head feeling sorry for you so go look it up.