Long John Silver

Movie review by
Charles Cassady Jr., Common Sense Media
Long John Silver Movie Poster Image
Ahoy matey! Classic character, so-so sequel.
  • NR
  • 1955
  • 108 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Young Jim Hawkins is, as always, virtuous and honest, always hoping that Long John Silver will reform. But the movie isn't named after Jim. Long John is a covetous scalawag who routinely double-crosses, robs, and tricks his enemies (it's a good thing that most of his enemies are worse than him). However, he does have a fatherly affection and respect for Jim. Despite the tropical settings, almost the entire cast is white -- not at all like a real pirate ship of the day.

Violence & Scariness

The pirates' "cuttin' and rippin'" are bloodless swordfights, stabbings, and shootings, plus a climactic barrage with explosives. One pirate threatens to cut out the boy hero's eyes. Long John takes a fall out a window. One hanging skeleton.

Sexy Stuff

Nothing but the obvious "for the seafood lover in you" chain-restaurant reference.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Much drinking of rum and grog among the piratical revelry.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this is not the classic 1950 Disney version of Treasure Island but a slow-moving non-Disney sequel, done a few years later, with the same lead pirate. Because it's ubiquitous on a number of discount public-domain video labels (some sell it under the title Long John Silver's Return to Treasure Island), picture and sound quality may be inferior. Violence consists of mainly bloodless (but occasionally fatal) stabbings and swordfights, and Long John's crew are heavily into the rum (their captain isn't, though). There is some glorification of Long John's outlaw ways, compared to the snooty aristocrats who embody virtue (a pious, Bible-quoting sort turns out to be a nasty type). One pirate -- blind, scarred, and vengeful -- may frighten smaller viewers.

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What's the story?

An Australian adaptation of Robert Lewis Stevenson's book, this film opens with pirate Long John (Robert Newton, who also played the pirate in Disney's 1950 Treasure Island) and his grumbling crew hanging out a tavern run by Long John's equally formidable girlfriend, Purity (Connie Gilchrist). Long John learns that the colonial governor's daughter is being held hostage by a rival pirate, Mendoza (Lloyd Berrell). Long John isn't interested -- until he hears that another prisoner is his "old shipmate," the boy Jim Hawkins (Kit Taylor). Long John manages to both rescue the children and make a fortune on the side by having his own men ransack the government treasury, knowing that Mendoza will get blamed for the looting. The reunion with Jim inspires another venture to the fabled Treasure Island, as it turns out there's more treasure buried there unfound in the last movie, and a medallion Jim happens to be wearing is a vital clue to its whereabouts.

Is it any good?

Newton is the best part of this film, which seems like a couple of movies/TV episodes all wrapped up in one slightly messy heap. Long John has running intrigues with Mendoza while attempting to escape Purity's overtures of marriage while Jim encounters perils on the various ships and on Treasure Island itself. Jim actively tries to foil Long John's dastardly pirate plans. Yet they continue to rescue each other and be friends, "shipmates," into the fadeout. No other characters in the film show each other such respect, understanding, and loyalty.

This movie has an entertaining bedtime-storybook spirit and some good action near the end, even if the script is heavy on the gab and the overall pace and budget are outgunned by the pirate antics of more popular pirate films. Beware: Out of copyright and in the public domain, this film is distributed on a lot of cut-rate DVD and VHS labels, so picture and sound quality may be less than seaworthy.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Long John Silver and his "moral code," if that's what it can be called. He's a treacherous rascal, and yet a friend and almost a surrogate father to Jim. Long John ends up acting heroically even though his own self-interest and thieving lurk behind almost his every deed. What other movie anti-heroes can you remember who are like that (besides Jack Sparrow)? Why do you think pirate movies are still so popular? Westerns feature similar outlaw types -- why do you think there aren't more Westerns being made today?

Movie details

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