The ends and outs of virtuous crime may have gotten more complicated four hundred years after the time of Robin Hood, but the eighteenth century set 1961 Fury at Smuggler’s Bay is a pretty satisfying swashbuckler. Featuring two effective rogues, one handsome lad, three comely maidens, and Peter Cushing, the film’s surprisingly morally shaded plot is an intriguing enough garnish for a fun landlocked pirate adventure.
In late eighteenth century Cornwall, it seems virtually everyone’s livelihood is dependent on smuggling so Squire Trevenyan (Cushing), the local magistrate, has always looked the other way. But then a group of rogues led by the vicious Black John (Bernard Lee) become “wreckers”—luring ships to wreck so they can steal their cargo.
The Squire’s son, Christopher (John Fraser), is in love with Louise (Michele Mercier), the daughter of a Frenchman and smuggler named Francois (George Coulouris). Francois finds he’s helpless to combat the threat posed by the wreckers—he can’t complain without exposing the fact that the wreckers are a problem because they’re impeding his own criminal activity.
There’s also a virtuous highwayman called simply The Captain (William Franklyn).
The film takes these basic elements and uses them to find excuses for Christopher to wield a sword, for the Squire to brood in moral conflict, and for Louise and a barmaid (Liz Fraser) to be menaced by Black John, while each is on desperate missions that require them to run alone through the forest. Harry Waxman’s cinematography is a gorgeous mix of shadows and lurid colour and the performances are all good. John Fraser looks like a young Jean Marais but a little leaner; Michele Mercier is absolutely luscious, particularly in red.