The 1972 Treasure Island is an adventure film, based on the 1883 novel by
Stevenson. The film stars Orson Welles as Long John Silver (albeit later dubbed by a different actor), Kim Burfield as Jim Hawkins, Walter Slezak as Squire Trelawney, Rik Battaglia as Captain Smollett, and Ángel del Pozo as Doctor Livesey.
This adaptation of Treasure Island was released in several different language versions, with different directors credited.
DEVELOPMENT & PITCH
The film had its origins in Orson Welles's attempts to film his Shakespearean adaptation Chimes at Midnight in the early 1960s – a project he had worked on since the late 1930s.
After Welles had failed to convince numerous producers to finance his film, he tried an alternative approach: he wrote a screenplay for the more commercially appealing Treasure Island, and promised to make both films, back to back, filmed on the same sets and with the same cast, for barely more than the cost of one film. As well as having written the script, he proposed to direct Treasure Island and play Long John Silver.
According to Welles' assistant Juan Cobos, Welles was "afraid that Chimes wouldn't be a very appealing film at the box office and he proposed a remake of Treasure Island to the (producers). It was a way to cover the money deficit of Chimes with a more popular film based on (Robert Louis) Stevenson´s classical novel."
Welles was a long-time admirer of the novel, and had performed it for radio in 1938. ""He loved the story, always did," said Beatrice Welles. "It's one of the books he read to me as a child."
This approach worked; Spanish producer Emiliano Piedra agreed to finance both films.
Jim Hawkins (Kim Burfield) is a young boy who works at a pub with his mother (Maria Rohm). When a drunken old sailor named
Billy Bones (Lionel Stander) comes in for a drink and dies, Jim gets his hands on a map which shows the whereabouts of pirate Captain Flint's treasure. Immediately taking action, he then enlists the help of
Squire Trelawney (Walter Slezak) and
Dr. Livesey (Angel DelPozo) to join him as he locates the island on the map. Together, they join a ship commanded by
(Rik Battaglia) that will lead them to their destination.
Word of the treasure map gets around and most of the crew are recruited with the help of the ship's cook,
Long John Silver (Orson Welles), an ex-pirate who had sailed with
Captain Flint and intends to get the treasure by mutiny and murder.
Already on the island is a marooned pirate, Ben
Gunn, who has spent his time on the island gathering the treasure. With his help Jim, the Squire, the Doctor, the Captain and a number of loyal crewmen outwit the pirates, killing most of them in gun battles.
Silver is captured, but escapes when the ship reaches harbour in the West Indies. Much of the plot and the linking narrative – spoken by
Jim Hawkins – is faithful to the original book.
Orson Welles as Long John Silver
Kim Burfield as Jim Hawkins
Lionel Stander as Billy Bones
Walter Slezak as Squire Trelawney
Ángel del Pozo as Doctor Livesey
Rik Battaglia as Captain Smollett
Jean Lefebvre as Ben Gunn
Maria Rohm as Mrs. Hawkins
Paul Muller as Blind Pew
Michel Garland as George Merry
Aldo Sambrell as Israel Hands
The idea was to use sets and cast for both films, such as the inn.
The proposed cast for the 1960s Treasure Island was as follows:
Keith Baxter as Doctor Livesey
John Gielgud as Squire Trelawney
Frasher McIntosh as Jim Hawkins
Orson Welles as Long John Silver
In order to get a local subsidy, the film needed a Spanish director and Spanish technicians. Welles suggested Jess Franco.
He would direct from a script by Welles. "We had a good script," said Welles. "It was loyal to Stevenson; my contribution was to keep it clear about just where the people were on the island, which Stevenson didn't always bother about... You don't notice it when you are reading, just when you are making a film script."
Top 10 treasure island films
Treasure Island 1934 MGM -
Treasure Island 1950 RKO Walt Disney -
Treasure Island 1972 CCC Film & National General Pictures -
Treasure Island 1990 TV Movie -
Muppet Treasure Island 1996 -
Treasure Island (I) 1999 -
Planet 2002 Disney, animated -
Treasure Island 2007 Die Schatzinsel -
Treasure Island 2012 BSkyB TV 180 min Action, Adventure -
Island 2019-2023 Universal Studios & Mandeville -
Captain Flint's crew and the circumstances that caused him to lose his leg. Indeed, Captain Flint himself is a character in this version, which is not the case in classic adaptations. Unlike the other three versions, this adaptation received mediocre reviews for deviating from the novel and relying less heavily on the recognizable tropes of the genre.