Director Albert Lewin, whose collaborations with cinematographer Jack Cardiff were recently celebrated in a season at the BFI Southbank, made a real oddity when he lensed Pandora and the Flying Dutchman back in 1951.
The old legend of a loner doomed to sail the seas forever unless he’s redeemed by a woman’s love is transposed here to 1930s Spain, centering on Ava Gardner’s man-eating, destructive Pandora who becomes intrigued by the arrival of James Mason’s mysterious yachtsman, Hendrik.
Told through flashback after the bodies of Pandora and Hendrik are found washed ashore, the melodrama unfolds and we learn that Hendrik is in fact the real Flying Dutchman, who has suffered centuries of anguish over killing his wife. The manipulative, yet irresistible Pandora, meanwhile, has enjoyed playing with her suitors but must now choose between the man she promised to marry or Mason’s tortured soul.
Highly stylized and reminiscent of those gloriously lush Powell-Pressburger films of the 1940s, Lewin’s romance boasts Cardiff’s stunning Technicolor camerawork, which is just delicious to watch. From Gardner’s gowns to the gorgeous Spanish coastline (shot in the Costa Brava resort of Tossa de Mar) it’s a beautiful looking film that well deserves its recent restoration by George Eastman House.
It’s also a chance to watch the alluring Gardner strut her stuff as the dreamy vixen, while the moody Mason chews the scenery in his distinctively clipped burgundy baritone.
The new Dual Format Edition contains both DVD and Blu-ray versions of the restored classic, plus some interesting special features – the highlight being a 1947 short on the death of famed Spanish bullfighter, Manolete (he’s the inspiration behind Mario Cabré’s matador who desires Pandora).
Quintessential viewing that’s perfect for a rainy Saturday afternoon.