Pandora and the Flying Dutchman [1951]

Director: Albert Lewin
Stars: James Mason, Ava Gardner, Nigel Patrick, Sheila Sim, Mario Cabré
Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Mystery
Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Runtime: 123 minutes

There are few films that can be acclaimed as truly mad, but Pandora and the Flying Dutchman stands rather wonderfully in this category. Its combination of lust and erudition is inspired by mythology but seems peopled by characters from some hybrid novel co-authored by Somerset Maugham and Ernest Hemingway. Pandora Reynolds (Ava Gardner) is a singer in a coastal town in Spain, where her hobby is attracting the devoted love of powerful men made helpless in her presence. (A race-car driver blithely pushes his one-of-a-kind vehicle over a cliff, just to earn her trust.) While fending off other suitors, including a bullfighter, she becomes intrigued by the mystery man (James Mason) whose yacht is moored offshore. Since he is Dutch, perhaps he is related to the mythical, immortal Flying Dutchman? Don't think it can't happen in this overheated affair. Gardner and Mason are not at their best (she looks ultra-glamorous, of course), but their movie-star wattage is high. The real star is the Technicolor cinematography by the great Jack Cardiff (The Red Shoes); the throbbing colors are just right for the unreal scenario playing out before us. Writer-director Albert Lewin, probably best known for his Picture of Dorian Gray, had a literary bent, and in this movie that means people are constantly planting their feet and reciting snippets of poetry toward the moonlit sea. Somehow this fits in perfectly with the rest of the delirium. --Robert Horton

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