Secrets of the Pirates’ Inn (1969)

SecretsOfThePiratesInnCoverA gang of kids helps a sea captain relative search for a pirate’s treasure that’s rumored to be hidden somewhere in the old dilapidated inn the sea captain just inherited from his dead brother. Along the way, they unravel a series of clues which lead to a variety of hidden passages and trap doors. But they are not alone in their quest for Jean Lafitte’s pirate goodies!

Someone is shadowing their every move, messing about in the basement, stealing clues, and leaving spooky footprints in the kitchen! Who can it be? The cantankerous caretaker, Vern Padgett, who doesn’t like kids or old sea captains? Or is it the nosy reporter, Carl Buchanan, in from Baton Rouge to dig up a story and just maybe a little treasure, too?

And can the crazy scheme the kids come up with to catch the real villain possibly work? Especially since the dog that helps them sniff out clues barks at an inopportune time? And why does Scooby-Doo look like a little runt dog that everyone calls Tramp?

More than 30 years before you were straining and staining your jeans because of Sara Michelle Gellar’s pink go go boots in the Scooby-Doo movie, The Walt Disney Company made the first live action version of the same concept with Secrets of the Pirates’ Inn for its Wonderful World of Disney television show.

If most of the child actors in this are so awful that they almost never acted again and so little really transpires during the film that the old sea captain constantly has to take a day between working on two line riddles he really ought be able to solve without the help of ten year old kids, at least the movie delivers exactly what you want and what the title promises, unlike other live action Disney movies of the era such as Mystery in Dracula’s Castle.

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Ed Begley plays Dennis McCarthy, the sea captain who has come from Ireland to settle down at the old inn and look for the pirate’s treasure. With his Irish accent and glued on beard, he looks just a like a sea captain from a Disney movie!

That’s good since he knows less about sailing than even I do. One of the riddles mentions the phrase “crow’s nest” and he doesn’t realize it’s referring to part of a ship until the little girl he’s hanging out with suggests something along those lines!

Even worse is when the riddle uses the word “rook” and while he knows it is piece in chess, he actually has to go to the dictionary to find out that it is also a bird. Despite this bird being native to the part of the world he just came from!

Frankly, his abject ignorance didn’t actually put me off that much since so much of it lead to him and the kids snooping around cobweb-strewn tunnels, pounding on walls for secret doors, and climbing through hollowed out casks to more secret underground locations.

There was also the scrutinizing of old parchments by candle-light, using the Bible to decipher the treasure’s location, spooky thunderstorms and the kids even joined in the stupidity by testing some half-assed theory about something or other by dumping a bunch of kerosene on a lit light bulb! (You could almost hear the ghost of Jean Lafitte howling with laughter when the thing blew up and the kids got knocked to the floor in a heap!)

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If you insist on your movie action to involve more than goobers bumping into each other in a basement, the ending provides you with a scene where one of the boys climbs onto a bridge and drops a net on a bad guy escaping by motorboat.

And if your heart can take it, the motorboat continues on without the bad guy and necessitates that the motor be shot so that the treasure aboard the boat isn’t lost at sea forever!

When the bad guy spends eons explaining himself, you can almost hear him thinking the whole bit about “those meddling kids.”

Those of us foolish enough to try and impose our modern sensibilities on a 1969 Disney treasure hunting movie will no doubt wonder why when responding to a report of a shooting at the inn, the sheriff take the kids with him after they whine incessantly (and thus delay the sheriff’s response), but then again this is the same sheriff who is startled into discharging his weapon inside the inn when the sea captain puts his hand on his shoulder.

He also gets his patrol car’s window broken when the kids are playing catch which has nothing to do with anything, but is a nice example along with the softball game the kids also play during the middle of the film of showing just how you take an hour long story and fill an hour and a half.

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You probably also will wince when the sea captain screws the kids out of their rightful share of the treasure by telling them he will use it to set up a trust fund to pay for college. First of all, the one kid named Catfish isn’t likely to even successfully graduate from the sixth grade and second of all, how much did college cost back in the late 1970s when they kids would have been ready for it? $300 or $400?

Speaking of Catfish, I don’t know if it was the kid playing him or the way the part was written, but I could’ve sworn that goon was retarded! Even worse is the other boy who just can’t act or deliver a line naturally, though his previously mentioned risky-looking bridge climbing deserves credit.

But don’t you dare make these twerps walk the plank yet matey! They return two years later to battle The Strange Monster of Strawberry Cove and if that one lives up to its title half as much as Secrets of the Pirates’ Inn does, you’ll not be dying of Disney kiddie adventure scurvy any time soon, you old seadog!

© 2013 MonsterHunter

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