Anthony Quinn Washes Ashore for Post-007 Terence Young.
DIRECTED BY TERENCE YOUNG/1967
BLU-RAY STREET DATE: FEBRUARY 26, 2019/KINO LORBER STUDIO CLASSICS
An all-important treasure chest full of British gold coins must get from here to there, and on time, in director Terence Young’s island-bound period adventure, The Rover (L’avventuriero). Based on the 1923 novel by Joseph Conrad and directed by Terence Young of Dr. No and From Russia with Love fame, The Rover stars Anthony Quinn just as he was looking to further his Zorba the Greek success. Yet, for that can’t-miss plot formula and some solid manly-man action movie cred, The Rover doesn’t move like it needs to.
Basically, then, what we’ve got is just another Italian production from a British filmmaker starring a Greek leading man playing a Frenchman. Domestic distributor ABC Films reportedly states that The Rover suffered an overall loss of $1,595,000. But these days, who’s counting? This curiously obscure film has washed ashore on Blu-ray, which is why we’re talking about it at all.
Quinn makes for a fine Terence Young surrogate, albeit through a maritime filter of global wartime history and old world military decorum of the “clashing gentlemen” variety.
For a film that went from being classified as “disastrous” to “completely forgotten”, The Rover is actually not all that bad. Quinn plays Peyrol, a former pirate captain now in the service of the French Republic as it battles the British Empire over the Mediterranean Sea during the Napoleonic Wars. Peyrol is a wanted outlaw who, despite his unyielding manly charm, is never truly content with solid ground beneath his feet. But, he’s got his mission, one vital in the effort to overcome a problematic British blockade.
One realizes that the above recap bears the distinction of being at once boring and exciting; such an observation is not incorrect regarding The Rover. So, continuing…
Waylaid on a not unpleasant island, Peyrol comes to the aid of wild-eyed Arlette (the beautiful Rosanna Schiaffino), who is not at all a well woman. This lands him in the good graces of her aunt Caterina (Rita Hayworth), an innkeeper with the resources to hide him from any troublesome pursuers. But she can’t keep them at bay forever…
This being a Terence Young film, the critical need to run it through the early-Connery-Bond filter is irresistible. In making the first two 007 films, both starring Sean Connery, Young didn’t just craft a couple of memorable adrenalized action flicks, nor did he merely get that particular franchise ball rolling. Young himself irrevocably influenced the screen persona and demeanor of Ian Fleming’s cagier super-spy. Those who knew Terence Young are quick to point out that the charming, suave, classy red-blooded charm of early 1960’s James Bond was very much reflective of the director himself.
Ergo, it’s impossible not to notice that Anthony Quinn, in this role, has also taken on similar characteristics of his director. The character of Peyrol, however, proves to be far more noble character; non-misogynistic and even self-sacrificial. Quinn makes for a fine Terence Young surrogate, albeit through a maritime filter of global wartime history and old world military decorum of the “clashing gentlemen” variety. It is the Terence Young angle of consideration with which this critic, by a wide margin, found The Rover to be most interesting.
Kino Lorber provides an audio commentary track with film historians Lee Gambin and Dr. Eloise Ross, both of which are no strangers to the process. It’s an extremely lively track, both apparently hopped up on Red Bull just following some IMDb cramming. Their own personal evocations and connections to whatever’s happening on screen dominate this commentary, a reliable if tired approach that can’t help but boil down to the historians bombarding their mics with other film titles, “This reminds me of that; that reminds me of this.” Not all that many enlightening dots may be connected along the way, but one thing is clear- Gambin and Ross have seen a lot of movies.
The Rover is an accomplished film of scope and period recreation. Though not famous, nor ultimately sexy or pulse-pounding, it nevertheless retains a particular justification for its Blu-ray treatment: War may be hell, but it’s so much more tolerable when one is going it alone on a picturesque island with Rosanna Schiaffino and Rita Hayworth.