Kidnapped (1960)

I had been hoping that Kidnapped was a movie along the lines of Treasure Island – you know something involving a guy with one leg and a murderous little kid who didn’t fret over stabbing some scurvy sea dog in the face when the chips were down.

What I got was Oscar-winner (not for this movie obviously) Peter Finch hamming it up as Alan Breck Stewart and Hawaii Five-0‘s James MacArthur as David acting all despondent after having to plug some scallywag while he and Stewart were trying to take over a ship.

Even worse was that David almost got his ass run through with a sword at one point when he piously announced card playing as being anti-Christian.

I was a little surprised that he didn’t weigh in with a Bible quote regarding turning the other cheek when they decided that even though Stewart had a price on his head and was on the run from the Brits, that he still had time to settle once and for all who was the better bagpipe player with another Scottish dude.

Keep in mind that all of this took place during the last twenty minutes of the film, so I’m guessing that it was supposed to be dramatic and really tense. This, in spite of the fact that the guy that Stewart was battling was some filthy, hairy character who just showed up and had no bearing on either the fugitive status of Stewart or David’s attempts to get his inheritance from his evil uncle. As far as the great musical feuds go, you’d have to put it down below the Axl Rose/Vince Neil throwdown several years ago, but above the skinny white guy catfight involving Moby and Eminem.

For his part, David is a well-spoken (read: big time sissy) young lad with a little teeny-tiny Sonny Crocket pony tail whose daddy just croaked which somehow causes him to move out of his village and seek his fame and fortune.

Just before he leaves town, some old geezer gives him a sealed envelope from his dead father. David is charged with delivering the envelope to his dad’s brother who lives about two days away from David’s village. David never knew his dad had a brother, but considering the fact that David’s uncle tries to arrange an “accident” for David his first day at his house, you can probably understand why David’s dad wasn’t exactly bragging about the guy.

David’s uncle is named Ebenezer, which is one of those names that’s up there with Adolf, Frankenstein, and Orenthal as far as big flashing neon signs that you better sleep with one eye open, not drop the soap, and all the rest. Shoot, David even had a couple of locals blanch, fart, and hurl curses whenever he mentioned where he was headed just to make sure we were aware that Uncle Ebenezer isn’t exactly going to be Uncle Buck.

After David avoids falling off the top of the house thanks to Uncle Ebenezer failing to mention that most of the second floor is nonexistent, his uncle agrees to go to town with him to visit their lawyer to sort out all this mess involving who gets what now that dear old dad is dead.

At the lawyer’s place, David discovers that his dad was really older than his uncle meaning that the estate was his, but he had given it to his brother years ago as kind of a consolation prize for not winning the heart of the woman who would become David’s mom. The only problem for Ebenezer is that the agreement David’s dad had with him can’t extinguish the property rights that David has in the property.

You can already see why this movie doesn’t have a chance to measure up to the standard set by Treasure Island. Never during my viewing of that one did I ever have to strain to recall things I never quite grasped during my law school property class like life estates, shifting vs. springing executory interests and the Rule Against Perpetuities.

For half of your semester grade, please state the interests involved with David and Ebenezer and diagram them for me. If this arrangement is somehow void (you know – a gap of seisin or something) please state that as well.

And the correct answer? Recognizing the potential for lengthy legal action between him and his nephew, Ebenezer does the only sensible thing and pays some sailors to kidnap David and transport him to North Carolina where he’ll work the tobacco farms as an indentured servant for seven years. Doing well in law school is all about thinking outside the box.

What follows is the spectacularly uninteresting and surprisingly uneventful tale of how David meets up with Stewart, how they hijack the slavers’ ship and end up getting into a shipwreck off the coast of Scotland or Ireland or wherever it is that folks who look and sound British hate the British.

I think I was supposed to care about whether David ever made it back to that lawyer so he could get his house back from Ebenezer, but the damn thing was in such disrepair, you wouldn’t want anyone but the crazy old uncle you hated to live in it.

Along the way, Stewart periodically makes speeches about how he hates the British or some particular clan of Scottish guys who don’t appreciate his bagpiping and I guess there’s supposed to be a little tension between him and David since David is a true blue royalist. At least he’s always going on about how he was born a Whig and isn’t a Jacobite, whatever the hell any of that means.

Everything is resolved in a rather improbably neat wrap up involving Stewart tricking Ebenezer into confessing his complicity in the kidnap plot.

Lots of talk combined with the unlikably prissy and holier-than-thou lead character only serve to bore while “action” scenes such as hiding from the British under a pile of leaves illustrates that the most egregious kidnapping that took place was of the viewer’s time.

© 2014 MonsterHunter

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