Directed By: Fraser Clarke Heston
Starring: Charlton Heston, Christian Bale, Oliver Reed
Tag line: "Sail the high seas. Battle the pirates. Live the adventure"
Trivia: The ship used in the film is The Bounty from the 1962 production of Mutiny on the Bounty
Yet another adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson's timeless adventure story, Treasure Island is told from the perspective of Jim Hawkins (Christian Bale), a young boy serving aboard the Hispaniola, a ship bound for a place called “Treasure Island”. According to a map that once belonged to Billy Bones (Oliver Reed), this is where the late pirate, Flint, supposedly buried a fortune in gold and jewels. But aside from a few honest men, including Dr. Livesey (Julian Glover), Squire Trelawney (Richard Johnson) and Captain Smollett (Clive Wood), the entire crew of the Hispaniola is made up of pirates, who are posing as upright sailors. Led by Long John Silver (Charlton Heston), the brigands plan to seize control of the ship the moment the treasure is found. But thanks to Jim, who’s gained Long John’s trust, their devious plot is revealed, leading to a stand-off that neither side is fully prepared for.
One can’t discuss this made-for-TV movie without mentioning its all-star cast. Oliver Reed seemed the natural choice to portray Billy Bones, the gruff, hard-drinking former pirate who gives the treasure map to young Jim Hawkins, and Christopher Lee has a brief but effective appearance as Blind Pew, one of Flint’s men who came looking for said map, only to meet a violent end. Having grown accustomed to Charlton Heston playing the hero, which he did in a number of epic films (Ben-Hur, El-Cid), his turn as the treacherous Long John Silver was a nice change. While Heston does, at times, come across as a likable foe (due mostly to the friendship he forges with Jim), there’s enough of a scoundrel left in his Silver to prove him a dangerous adversary. As far as the non-pirates go, Richard Johnson is at his best as the boisterous Squire who, on occasion, allows greed to cloud his judgment, and Julian Glover’s Livesey remains, at all times, the perfect gentleman. Then there’s the Dark Knight himself, Christian Bale, who, though only 15 when Treasure Island was produced, manages to hold his own alongside the film’s more experienced stars.
Directed by Heston’s son, Fraser, Treasure Island makes great use of its various settings (aside from the scenes that take place at sea, portions of the movie were shot on-location in Cornwall and Jamaica). This, plus the convincing period costumes and tremendous performances, helps bring Stevenson’s literary classic to life.