A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Young Jim Hawkins is a paragon of justice and virtue. Most of the pirates are greedy, treacherous rascals. Long John Silver stands in both camps (depending on whose side is winning), and while he's an untrustworthy scalawag and a killer, his almost-fatherly affection for Jim makes him a fascinating antihero. Female characters are totally invisible -- Jim's mother, briefly present in the book, isn't even here.
Violence & Scariness
Shootings, one in painful closeup right into a pirate's face. Stabbings, including the boy hero getting a knife thrown into his arm.
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OK, even though a parrot is cautioned about the bad language he allegedly repeats.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Drinking among the seamen, one so drunk he washes overboard (his inebriation encouraged by Long John Silver as a deliberate act of murder). Ex-pirate Billy Bones quite likely dies of alcoholism. At least it's not glorified.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that there is much PG-worthy violence in this Disney outing, including fatal shootings and stabbings, and some of the pirates, when threatening the life of young Jim Hawkins, might seem truly nightmarish to very little viewers. Jim himself has to kill one. Later theatrical and TV re-releases of Treasure Island excised the worst of it to get a "G," but the video version restores it. You'll see much drinking as well, but it's not glorified. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
For modern viewers used to the faster action and ghoulish fantasy tinges of Disney's later Pirates of the Caribbean features, the action here is relatively mild and a little stagy at times. But it's still an immortal moment when a homicidal swab climbs the rigging after Jim, or when Long John Silver asserts his command over the unruly pirates. The timeless Stevenson plot has the good guys trying to think one step ahead of the mutineers (who outnumber them), with the slippery Long John repeatedly putting himself in the middle -- he's willing to deal with any side that's winning -- and staying close to innocent Jim at all times. Robert Louis Stevenson's pirate classic had been filmed several times already, most notably as a black-and-white "talkie" in 1934. This 1950 version added lush color and lovingly detailed sailing ships and costumes (plus grand vistas of 18th-century sailing ports that are actually lifelike paintings), and a most seaworthy cast.
The question always remains: Does Long John really have a soft spot for the boy, or is he just using Jim as a hostage and pawn? The characters' relationship makes Long John one of the most interesting of the many villains in Disney annals. Actor Robert Newton's eye-rolling, teeth-gritting portrayal made the role his very own. He also played a much-less sympathetic lead in Blackbeard the Pirate and encored as Long John Silver in a short-lived TV series and a non-Disney sequel to Treasure Island, found on video as Long John Silver. Practically every time somebody does a pirate impersonation heavy on the "Arrrs!" they're unknowingly imitating Newton's mannerisms, and an actor (or a pirate) can't do better than that for a legacy.
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