The Trouble With the Human Race Is, That It’s Entirely Sub-Human

Posted: 24/12/2013 in 1973

captains paradise

I really wanted to hate this film.  About less than halfway in, however, I was thoroughly drawn in Anthony Kimmins’ comedic drama The Captain’s Paradise.  This very British film about a bigamist does not seem so appealing on the surface, but when given a chance, Kimmins’ work delivers on a number of levels.  First and foremost, this is actually a morality fable.  Captain Henry St. James is not glorified for his actions, and those that do glorify him are made out to look like fools.

Alec Guinness is truly one of the best things about this film in the leading role.  He is the most vile of creatures, yet he’s a human throughout.  Is he bad human being?  Is he a cautionary tale?  Is he a complete chauvinist idiot?  He’s not a genius as one character would try to lead the audience to believe.  That said, there is a strange humanity to Captain St. James.  He’s not a lovable character by any stretch, but he’s not loathsome to the point of wanting to walk away from the film.  One truly becomes invested in his fate, either out of interest in his actual character or for the women in his life.  All of this is a testament to Alec Guinness’ acting chops. He delivers quite simply one of the better performances of the year here.  Speaking of the women in his life, I personally don’t have a lot of good to say about Yvonne De Carlo as Nita only because I could not get over her Spanish.  She is supposed to be Spanish as far as one can tell (maybe Moroccan?), but her Spanish is that of a native English speaker who has be speaking it well for a few years.  Perhaps that should not be distracting, but it takes away from her performance, and it was the film’s glaring weakness.  On the other hand, I really like Celia Johnson in the role of Maud.  She elicits such sympathy from the audience for her plight, and we the audience find ourselves rooting her on at every moment.  This is simply great acting on Johnson’s part, because there’s nothing particularly charismatic about her character, especially in contrast with Guinness.  In the end, although sometimes the most charismatic roles unfairly steal the show, Miss Johnson has us pulling for her until the bitter end.

Ultimately, I’m happy I gave The Captain’s Paradise a fair chance.  What I thought would be another male-centric chauvinist comedy turned out to be so much more than that.  The script is sharp and edgy, and the performances (for the most part) are first rate.

***1/2 ~AOS

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