France: MARY LA ROUSSE, FEMME PIRATE
U.K.: HELL BELOW DECK
U.S.: QUEEN OF THE SEAS
Director - Umberto Lenzi 1960
Cast: Lisa Gastoni (Mary Read), Jerome Courtland (Peter Goodwin), Germano Longo (Ivan), Agostino Salvietti, Edoardo Toniolo (Lord Goodwin), Loris Gizzi (warden), Gianni Solaro (Gov. of Florida), Eleonara Morana (Miss Elizabeth), Gisella Arden (French ballerina), Dina De Santis (maid), Tullio Altamura (Don Pedro Alvarez), Anna Arena (woman traveling by coach), Piero Pastore (master of ceremonies), Franco Lamonte (horse riding instructor), Ignazio Balsamo (captain of the guard), Gualtiero Isnenghi (English captain), Giulio Battiferri (jailer), Mimmo Poli (robber), Luigi D'Acri, Nada Cortese, Maria Teresa Angele, Walter Licastro, Bruno Scipioni, Massimo Ungaret, Piero Pastore and Walter Barnes (Capt. Poof).
Story and screenplay by Ugo Guerra, Luciano Martino
Director of Photography Augusto Tiezzi
Eastmancolor - Totalscope
Music by Gino Filippini
Editor Jolanda Benvenuti
Art Director Alfredo Montori
Costumes Walter Patriarca
Set Designer Franco D'Andria
Production Manager Nino Misiano
Assistant Director Tersicore Kolosoff
Production Inspector Pasquale Misiano
Sound Editor Maria Luisa Roy
Operator Luigi Allegretti
Assistant Operator Renato Mascagni
Nautical Consultant Walter Bertolazzi
Sound Mario Faraoni
Make-up Massimo Giustini
Hairdresser Violetta Pacelli
Produced by Fortunato Misiano for Romana Film
Distrib. SidenProd. Reg. 2568
Like a great many pirate movies, QUEEN OF THE SEAS used the name of a real life person, but didn't bother to try and tell the story behind the name. Mary Read was an associate of the infamous Ann Bonny, about whom director Jacques Tourneur made ANN OF THE INDIES in 1951. Perhaps it was fitting that as ANN didn't mention Mary, QUEEN didn't mention Ann. (For a terrific summary of the history of Mary Read, check out "Lesbian Pirates: Anne Bonny and Mary Read" by Richard Norton on the internet. <http://rictornorton.co.uk/pirates.htm>)
Lisa Gastoni was the star of QUEEN OF THE SEAS, and she was certainly a pleasure to behold, as she had the athleticism to make the swashbuckling convincing. In this interpretation, Mary Read was a thief who was caught, while disguised as a man, trying to snatch the jewels off a rich woman traveling in England by passenger coach. While her associate, an older man, avoided suspicion, Mary was thrown into prison. As it happened, the cell already housed Peter Goodwin, an aristocrat in the lock-up for a minor offense. Eventually, Peter discovered that his cellmate was a woman and the two had a secret romance. Freed, Peter gave Mary a token and told her to look for him when she got out.
Escaping from prison, Mary sought out Peter's home and was most disturbed to find him relating their jail experiences to giggling ladies of his class. After smacking the young Lord and throwing back his token, Mary left. Reteaming with her older partner, the woman decided that life would be better on the sea, and sought out someone willing to hire her.
Walter Barnes brought his usual bluster to the role of Captain Poof; a fellow who didn't mind the idea of having a woman aboard his ship. Of course, he hoped to sleep with her. This impasse was overlooked when their ship was attacked on the high seas by a Spanish galleon. Poof was killed and his crew taken prisoner. Not surprisingly, the victorious Spanish captain hoped to bed the blond beauty aboard the captured ship, but Mary had the moxie to club him into unconsciousness and set free the English prisoners. In command of their old ship, the crew appointed her their new leader. Mary adopted the name of Captain Poof and began a new career as a sea pirate.
Eventually, Mary came face-to-face with Peter Goodwin on opposite sides of Maritime Law. Will she be forced to hang him for his attempt to murder Captain Poof in the night, or will a way occur for the two of them to become a respectable married couple?
Having previously worked on the Tales of the Vikings TV series, Jerome Courtland and Walter Barnes were reunited in the cast list for this movie, but they had no scenes together. A good-looking but rather bland actor, Courtland soon left the performing profession to become a producer at the Walt Disney company. After Walter returned to the U.S., Courtland was able to find him a number of roles in Disney productions.
Innovation and novelty were obviously not on the agenda of first-time director Umberto Lenzi, and he succeeded in making a respectable, but dull, formula actioner. The only element which was memorable was Lisa Gastoni, and for some that may be enough.
An unanswered question for this reviewer was "From what movie did the shelling of the pirate island come?"
(There is a beautiful French DVD of this with the title MARY LA ROUSSE, FEMME PIRATE. There is also a fandub made from this DVD with English subtitles.)