Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Scrounger’s Cheapjack Christmas Special! #42: Long John Silver

It’s Christmas! With pirates! Arrrrrr!

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He even says ARRRR! right before the title comes up. Just for that, this show is awesome.

Just Enough Information: Produced in Australia in 1955 for the American and British markets, The Adventures of Long John Silver is a series loosely based on characters from Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, although as with a number of television adaptations, some of the sharper edges are sanded off of the title character. As portrayed by Robert Newton—reprising his remarkable take on the role from the 1950 Disney adaptation—Long John is more of a loveable rogue, and (get this) actually working for the British governor to keep the villainous Spaniards at bay. Also surviving the transition to the small screen was cabin boy Jim Hawkins, played by Kit Taylor.

There were 26 half-hours made, and there probably would have been more if Newton hadn’t passed on after those were completed.

The Christmas Episode: “The Orphans’ Christmas”. Original American Broadcast: Syndicated c. 1955-6...or somewhere in the neighborhood.

Meet Miss Willoughby, the woman who runs the orphanage on the island of Portobello. She’s a joyless harridan, drilling her charges like they were in the army. Jim Hawkins, who also happens to be an orphan, doesn’t like it one bit, and takes his case back to the only adults in his life, the gang at the Cask and Anchor Inn.

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The Reverend Monaster warns everybody that as nasty a piece of work Willoughby is during the year, Christmas really brings out a fresh slice of Hell in her, but there’s not much the law can do as long as she feeds, clothes, and educates the children and doesn’t actually beat them. They decide there’s no harm in pressing the case, but Willoughby makes it clear that “children should not expect things for nothing…least of all orphans.” She also uses the phrase “pagan revelry”. Ouch.

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Of course, if you’ve seen as many Christmas TV shows as I have this month, you just know they’re just setting her up for the breaking dawn of renewed love and fellowship. (highlight for spolers) The key to all of this, as Long John finds out during an old-fashioned pirate-style intervention (from the end of a pistol), is in a box of letters from a lost love, a man who was supposed to return to marry her on Christmas Day but never got around to it. Long John actually served with the man, and spins her a story about how he died on Christmas with her name on his lips, and that's all it takes to bring the joy of the season back to her heart. The fact that “her Richard” really ended up on another island with a wife and eleven children (Catholic much?) is something best left unsaid. Especially while she’s in the room. Don’t let her catch you sharing that last pre-credits laugh, either.

Anyway, the orphans get their Christmas and everyone’s full of the happy and the joy.

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Our Holiday Lesson For Today: If you really, really want to stay a sour misanthrope, December is a great time to stay in your misery bunker, lest armed pirates break in and try to bring you around.

But Don’t Take My Word For It: Here ya be, ye scurvy swabs…but first, the title sequence for the full impact.

Next: Meet Corliss Archer! Yay, another sitcom…

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