Movie Review: Jamaica Inn

I’m not really sure what motivated me to pick up Alfred Hitchcock 4 Spine Tingling Films from the Master of Suspense when I was at my local library the other day, but I decided to watch something completely outside my normal movies. Maybe it’s the Readings in the Genre: Mystery Classics class I’m taking right now. Maybe it’s repeated clips from Arsenic and Old Lace. Regardless of why, the first of these is Jamaica Inn.

“When her parents die, Mary is sent to Cornwall England to live with her Aunt Patience and Uncle Joss. Uncle Joss is the owner and proprietor of the Jamaica Inn, a seemingly normal business. However, Mary soon discovers that all is not what it seems: her uncle is the leader of a gang of pirates who lure ships to their doom on a rocky coast. When Mary discovers the truth, though, she begins to fear for her life. This early classic from the Master of Suspense is adapted from a novel by Daphne Du Maurier and features screen legend Charles Laughton.”

Jamaica Inn is obviously in black and white and sometimes that makes it sometimes more difficult to tell what’s going on or to see the differences between characters. However, this movie actually did a pretty good job of showing unique characteristics of each of the pirates, as well as the two women. I think the movie-makers of this time were aware of the limitations of black and white movies and that’s why some of the characters are a little over the top. The main villain is a very overweight rich man who basically controls the entire area and makes a profit off of everyone. He uses the pirates to do his bidding and he uses the townsfolk to get whatever he wants and to maintain control and power in the area. He’s a bully (and oddly reminds me heavily of the current U.S. Presidential election).

I have to admit that Mary is rather brave and resourceful for a woman of those times. She sees a man about to be hung from the rafters and breaks through the wall so that she can use a knife to saw through the rope. She then helps this man escape and he saves her life by protecting her from the pirate group he was attempting to get information on as an undercover man of the law. Watching movies from different eras makes me continuously happy that I didn’t grow up then because apparently it’s common to drag a tied and gagged woman through the streets and take her unwillingly onto a boat and kidnap her. She the really bad guy, Humphreys, forces Mary into some very uncomfortable situations.

I think the really weird and or hard part about this movie was towards the end when Mary tried to vouch for Humphreys and say that he’s not well and doesn’t know what he’s doing. Eventually, he jumps off the top mast on the ship. Which is just eerie.

So does good win in the end? It’s hard to say, since the pirates are all captured at the end and the large mastermind behind the whole thing commits suicide. I think I’m supposed to believe that this was an example of things ending correctly, but I still somehow don’t exactly feel as though justice was served. I’m not sure that the villagers lives will be made better with Humphreys no longer controlling the Jamaica Inn, but at least more sailors and sea-goers will survive by not having their ships purposefully crashed into the rocks so the pirates could steal all the cargo and kill all the crew.

Older movies really are a lot different than modern movies. They had to do a lot more with a lot less and I respect that greatly. So while I understand where this movie came from and I appreciate having watched it, I think I’m going to have to rate it as a very low two on my scale because I don’t think I ever need to watch it again.

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About C.A. Jacobs

Just another crazy person, masquerading as a writer.
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