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Cherry Pop

'Hero's Island - Limited Edition Collection'
(James Mason, Warren Oates, Neville Brand, et al / DVD / NR / (1962) 2011 / Warner Bros. Archive)

Overview: On an island off the Carolina coast, an 18th-century family is being besieged by murderous local fisherman. An outsider (Warren Oates) joins the family, aided by a mysterious stranger who turns out to be Blackbeard the Pirate!

DVD Verdict: James Mason and Leslie Stevens' beautiful and obscure rendering of one family's escape from indentured slavery through the entreprenurial violence of pirate Major Steed Bonnett, AKA Sailormaster to Captain Teach (Blackbeard), AKA The Devil.

Manx, upon gaining her freedom, is granted title to Bull Island, off the coast of Carolina. Upon arrival with her husband she finds a family of fisherman in residence who claim the island for their own - in the ensuing struggle her husband is killed and she is ordered to leave under threat of death. By sheer providence, stranger James Mason is washed up on shore unconscious, a floater reading 'Dead Man' around his neck. The mysterious Mason joins her struggle.

The morality of the film is fine, tracking a passage from the sureties of slavery in the old Empire to the anarchy of a land-grab in the new World - Manx has the deeds to the island, but none of the fishermen can read worth a damn. The script is refracted through sunlight into blood, most violence happening in superb colour, and mixing vibrant color into some well-delivered, if not completely insane words!

Indeed, in one extraordinary scene, film in a ten minute take with no cuts of any kind, Manx explains the mechanics of slavery to Mason, shows him her indenture and the two parts of paper representing her whole person - the reason why the scene was filmed without cuts, its narrative integrity intact.

Nicolas (Rip Torn) is tempted into the New World, wanting to learn to read, and deserts his fisherman brothers to throw his lot in with Manx. The remaining fishermen send to the mainland for help from the brutal Kingstree (Neville Brand) and the scene is set for a confrontation between land and sea, life and death.

Only Cimino's Heaven's Gate shares the same canvas as Hero's Island, both showing an interior landscape, a projected journey, an intellectual sword-fight. The sheer physicality of the final clash between Mason and Brand birthing the notion of everything we have seen and heard.

A stunning, stunning film, a masterpiece, and probably the finest film of the 60's. FYI: This product is manufactured on demand using DVD-R recordable media. This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.