Anne of the Indies (Jacques Tourneur / U.S., 1951):

Jacques Tourneur back in the tropics, minus the spiritual unrest of I Walked With a Zombie though with some of its proto-feminism -- Jean Peters runs the buccaneer ship as "Captain Providence," pillaging 17th-century Caribbean seas and male egos. Sword twirling and plank-marching, then some relaxation at the seaside tavern, watching bear-wrestling with Blackbeard (Thomas Gomez) before casting off to be romanced by Louis Jourdan, the Parisian smoothie taken prisoner in the opening galley demolition and, by all accounts, further reason for her distrust of men. A swashbuckling potboiler, but, as with Tourneur's thrillers, noirs, and Westerns, a genre assignment given offhand grace by aesthetic visualization and melancholy. "Long ago, my dear, I gave up all beliefs," mutters rum-lubricated old doctor Herbert Marshall, but to the director jaded indifference toward even the most unlikely of projects isn't an option, thus he steers his vessel to subtly tragic waters, silly and profound, Johnny Guitar three years in advance. Tourneur's palette here isn't nearly as violent as Ray's stark delirium, though Peters' homegrown petulance is as purposely incongruous aboard the deck as Joan Crawford's glamour in the saloon, the better to question the imposed gender roles used to mold identities. Only once does Peters slip from her tomboyish pants into a golden wench gown, all while under Jourdan's manipulation -- "a disgrace to our sex," accuses Debra Paget, Jourdan's wife, yet her transgression (her actual, threatening outlawism) stems less from being a pirate in colonial times than from being an assertive woman in a corseted system. Revenge comes by nearly putting Paget up as slavery-trade merchandise, yet redemption comes as a move towards death, as it does so often with Tourneur, Peters facing Blackbeard's cannons to bid farewell to a world that cannot encompass her.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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