Pandora and the Flying Dutchman (1951)

“With one bloody blow, I killed all that I loved on God’s earth.”

Synopsis:
An archaeologist (Harold Warrender) at a Spanish port town recounts the story of a seductive singer (Ava Gardner) who causes one suitor (Marius Goring) to commit suicide and another (Nigel Patrick) to ruin his beloved race car on her behalf, then swims out to a yacht and becomes instantly smitten with a mysterious painter (James Mason) who appears to recognize Gardner from somewhere. As secrets about Mason’s past with Gardner are uncovered, romantic loyalties become ever more entangled.

Genres:

Review:
Inspired by the legend of a ghost ship named The Flying Dutchman, this fantastical romance by writer-director Albert Lewin showcases Jack Cardiff’s luminous Technicolor cinematography in service of an oddly unsatisfying tale mixing realism and mysticism, and centering on a self-absorbed but drop-dead gorgeous femme fatale. Mason adds his typical nuance and gravitas to a rather thankless role as a mysteriously ageless man who committed a terrible mistaken deed at one point in his lengthy past and is doomed to wander the seas until he can redeem himself. None of it makes much logical sense; this film is primarily a feast for the eyes, as we’re shown exciting bullfights, a high-speed dusty car race, and Ava Gardner at her most intoxicating in an array of stunning outfits (and one strategically wrapped towel).

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Jack Cardiff’s cinematography

  • James Mason as Hendrick van der Zee
  • Ava Gardner’s stunning gowns (by costume designer Beatrice Dawson)

Must See?
No, though the cinematography is certainly worth a look.

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