Disney’s first live-action feature is quite OK.
This is a relatively faithful adaptation of Stevenson’s tale of pirates and buried treasure. Jim Hawkins (Bobby Driscoll) lives at a seaside inn owned by his invalid mother. Old Billy Bones turns up with a mysterious chest and hides out, terrified that an one-legged man will find him. . Soon other unsavory characters turn up in search of Billy. Before Billy’s untimely death, he entrusts a treasure map with Jim. Gentlemen of the town hire a ship to search for the treasure. Before they know it, unscrupulous but loveable Long John Silver (Robert Newton) has signed on as cook and brought aboard his pirate cronies as crew. Long John and Jim become fast friends and the adventure begins.
Long John is a master manipulator and uses Jim to get around the many strictures imposed by the all-business captain of the ship. He can barely restrain the crew from mutinying before the ship arrives at the island. Thereafter, it is the pirates against the greatly outnumbered gentlemen in a race to the treasure. Now Jim has become a valuable hostage for the pirates. The gentlemen find an ally in Old Ben Gunn, who was marooned on the island several years earlier.
This is a well-made film that should appeal to all adventurous-minded boys. I couldn’t help comparing it to 1934 MGM version with Jackie Cooper and Wallace Beery. The older movie is livelier somehow and Cooper far outshines Driscoll in the charisma department.