SHIPWRECKED follows in the tradition of a long line of scenic coming-of-age tales, most notably the classic TREASURE ISLAND, which, in many respects, this high seas odyssey resembles. Though too old-fashioned for sophisticated tastes, this handsome production rewards the unjaded viewer
with grand adventure.
England. 1859. Merrick (Gabriel Byrne), the notorious South Seas pirate, has eluded the British Navy and returned home. He promptly kills Howell (Ian Mackenzie), a seaman, to obtain his first officer's papers. In Norway, the family of young Haakon Haakonsen (Stian Smestad) is about to lose their
farm. Father has returned from sea with an injured leg and is unable to repay an outstanding loan. Only Haakon can stave off foreclosure on the family home; he must accept a commission as a mate on a trade ship. By fate, he is aboard a vessel whose captain, Madsen (Kjell Stormoen), is fatherly and
the boatswain, Bosun (Karl Sundby), stern but avuncular. In London they take on a British first officer--Merrick, masquerading as Howell--who's familiar with the South Seas and the ways of pirates. The ship, bound for Sydney and Calcutta, faces a long voyage with a villainous man.
They are not long at sea when Haakon uncovers a mislabeled cache of guns belonging to "Howell." Later, Merrick's villainous cohort taints the good Captain's cognac; he falls ill with fever and dies. The first officer, then, is captain. Arriving in Sydney, Merrick cancels shore leave and takes
aboard a scurvy gaggle of men. Haakon discovers Mary (Louisa Haigh), a pretty Australian stowaway fleeing from her orphanage to an uncle in Calcutta. She is soon found; failure to report a stowaway is a grave offense. Jens (Trond Peter Stamso Munch) is blamed, but Haakon speaks up. He is about to
be whipped when a storm hits. Reef rocks rupture the hull. Haakon has difficulty freeing the shackled girl in the brig. The deck is awash; Haakon is thrown into the sea.
He awakens on a sun-drenched tropical beach. Searching to no avail for his mates, he enters a treacherous cave and there finds a lode of jewels and a small armory. Soon, he happens upon the ship's wreckage and Merrick's travel trunk. Inside is a wanted poster of Merrick, "Terror of the South
Seas." Haakon also meets another terror, of sorts, a gorilla. The beast is more curious--in the way of Disney animals--than aggressive, and by friendly gesture seems in sympathy with Haakon's situation. Over the following weeks, the boy rigs a series of ingenious booby traps for Merrick's certain
return. (Never having learned such techniques anywhere, his natural skill is a gift from Disney.) Through his telescope he spots smoke rising from a distant shore. He builds a boat and sails there, to find Jens and Mary living safely among the natives. They return to Haakon's island, but soon
Merrick arrives in a hijacked ship to retrieve his loot, with several former shipmates as slaves. Haakon and his friends free them and unite to defeat the pirates, seize the treasure, the ship and the victory.
Based on the novel Haakon Haakonsen by O.V. Falck-Ytter, SHIPWRECKED, though unsurprising, is neatly told in linear acts, affording the sweep and sense of place these tales require, and a glimpse of history as well. The locations are far-flung: Fiji, Norway, Spain, England and the U.S. The
shipboard sequences were filmed on an authentic period vessel; the storm is a brief but impressive studio recreation. The essence of SHIPWRECKED is that a boy faces danger from man and the elements, and triumphs ... with a little help from his friends. Much depends on the enthusiasm and charisma
of the lead and supporting cast, and it proves worthy. Byrne is a suitable rogue, and Smestad a handsome, spirited lad who finds himself and his manhood on the adventure of a lifetime.
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- Released: 1990
- Rating: PG
- Review: SHIPWRECKED follows in the tradition of a long line of scenic coming-of-age tales, most notably the classic TREASURE ISLAND, which, in many respects, this high seas odyssey resembles. Though too old-fashioned for sophisticated tastes, this handsome product… (more)