Another week, another pirate movie! HELL BELOW DECK, aka Queen of the Seas aka The Adventures of Mary Read, directed by UMBERTO LENZI was a flick I was pretty excited about checking out. I haven’t seen too many pirate movies from the 60’s that revolved around a badass female figure like Mary Read. There are major inaccuracies in her character, but it’s the 60’s, I’m grateful enough that they had a female lead who can do something OTHER than fall in love…
Mary Read (LISA GASTONI) is a petty thief, masquerading as a man. She lands herself in a jail cell where she meets Peter Goodwin (JEROME COURTLAND), who secretly happens to be the son of a Lord. This is where it’s revealed to us that she’s (not so secretly) actually a pretty blonde woman when she takes off her shoddy man-wig to bathe. Let’s be honest, though, she could never pass for a man with mascara and eyeliner that heavy. As I’m sure anyone could have guessed, this is the introduction to our rather douchey, womanizing love interest. And to point out the first historical inaccuracy, which for some reason, bugs me as much as the really big one. Why on earth is Mary Read a blonde with a bouffant?
Mary and Peter go their separate ways and Mary makes the decision to take to the seas. She uses her femininity to manipulate the men around her who are smitten with her. Mary is able to gather information, sneak into private cabins, and takes anything she pleases with the bat of an eyelash. Her advantage being that no man could ever suspect that a woman would be powerful or cunning enough to truly deceive them. She never truly shows a romantic side, but the writers couldn’t help but have her periodically staring out to sea and sighing. This wouldn’t be as much of an issue if Peter wasn’t such a twat-waffle, but I digress.
Under the guise of “Captain Poof,” Mary Read takes to the seas and has a strong, tight-knit team of men she commands. Captain Poof sounds about as threatening as a feather duster, but the King and the Royal Navy become most concerned about “him” since he’s so elusive. Rumors of Captain Poof’s power and strength circulate and he becomes the number one target. The Navy hatches a plan to capture Poofy and sends, none other than Peter Goodwin, as Captain of their ship.
And right about here is where many pirate enthusiasts would notice a certain… absence. A BIG one. That’s right, WHERE IS ANNE BONNY? Anne Bonny, for those that are not familiar, was another pirate that famously sailed the seas alongside Mary Read as her best friend and LOVER. At this point, HELL BELOW DECK turns less into a telling of Mary Read’s life and more into a fantasy about a low-class woman marrying rich. No doubt, this film would have been infinitely better if it would have at least touched on the fiery relationship those two had. However, if it did discuss a passionate love between two women, I’m not sure it would have seen the light of day.
As one would expect, Mary allows herself to finally fall for Peter and be taken back as a prize. They both fall madly in love and live happily ever after as aristocrats in London. Completely antithetical to the real Mary Read, who would butcher a man and flash her tits at him before he croaked, so he would know who really did him in.
Despite my numerous complaints, this movie was actually extremely enjoyable. Every character has an endearing quality, the sets were beautiful, and the story was fast-paced and interesting. Yeah, the romance thing could’ve been skipped in this case, but that doesn’t mean Mary Read’s “Poof” character was a total pansy. She still fought bravely, took on any challenge, and made a great commander, all with a perfect blonde bouffant. The film has it’s issues, but setting the historical inaccuracies aside and watching it from a fresh perspective can resolve that. HELL BELOW DECK is a fun, action-packed pirate movie that’s worth checking out. Pirate enthusiasts, add this one to your collection, I promise you will want to watch it again.