Delbert Mann’s adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s story of the young David Balfour (Lawrence Douglas) covers both the 1886 novel Kidnapped and the 1891 sequel Catriona. Upon the death of his father young David travels to Scotland to claim his inheritance but is sold into slavery, Pleasance gives a wonderful turn as the verminous uncle Ebeneezer.

Mann remains largely faithful to the original impetus of Stevenson’s story, with David being spirited off to the Carolina’s by the villainous Captain Hoseason, played by Jack Hawkins (Lawrence of Arabia, Ben Hur). The slave ship is wrecked off the Scottish coast and Balfour, with the hardened Jacobite Breck (Michael Caine) in tow, sets off for Edinburgh. The typically robust adventure that follows bristles with all the hallmarks of a swashbuckling classic. Caine is in superb form as the disenchanted Jacobite Breck and projects a truly moving air of fatalism as he observes the destruction of the once proud Scottish clans at the hands of the British.

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As the pair travel through the Scottish wilderness they are forced to elude the Redcoats who are combing the countryside in search of renegade Jacobites. To tie the picture to the cliché of your standard swashbuckler would be to do it a disservice it not only touches upon the desolation of Scotland’s pillaging at the hands of British forces but also the torrid political climate at the time. Between Balfour’s quest for his rightful birthright and Breck’s desire to flee his native land for France, the film conveys a real sense of the overriding turmoil that sets the conflict aside as one of histories darker chapters.

Although the film was beset with production difficulties due to the spiralling costs of production on location, Mann manages to steer it to steadier waters and the cinematography of the Argyll coast is, at times, truly stunning. The spirit behind the films production is something of a testament to the collective determination of the cast and crew which included Caine waving his fees. The fact that the film even made it to the silver screen at all is something of an adventure.

Kidnapped is without doubt a real winner and the all-star cast which includes Trevor Howard (Twinky, Gandhi), Gordon Jackson (The Ipcress File) and Vivien Helbron (Target, The New Statesman) gives it the air of a true classic. The real complement that has seen the picture survive the test of time and will certainly see it remain a firm favourite for years to come is that its DVD release has been so eagerly anticipated.

Reviewed on: 16 Jan 2007
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Fatalistic yet charming adventure yarn.
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Director: Delbert Mann

Writer: Jack Pulman, based on the novel by Robert Louis Stevenson

Starring: Michael Caine, Lawrence Douglas, Vivien Heilbron, Trevor Howard, Jack Hawkins, Donald Pleasence, Gordon Jackson, Freddie Jones, Jack Watson

Year: 1971

Runtime: 109 minutes

BBFC: U - Universal

Country: UK


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