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Film / Treasure Island (1950)

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The 1950 film Treasure Island was the first color adaptation of the novel. It was directed by Byron Haskin and starred Bobby Driscoll as Jim Hawkins and Robert Newton as Long John Silver, in a performance that did much to shape popular notions of what it means to Talk Like a Pirate.

The film was produced by Walt Disney Productions, and is the first Disney movie to be entirely live-action. (At one point there was a plan for a short animated sequence illustrating a story being told to Jim, à la Song of the South, but this idea was ultimately abandoned.)

Robert Newton reprised the role in Long John Silver (1954), alongside Byron Haskin and an otherwise all-new cast. Haskin and Newton followed this up with The Adventures of Long John Silver the following year, which ran 25 episodes (in colour) until Newton's death. Neither of these were Disney productions.

This film provides examples of:

  • Actionized Adaptation: The ending. In the book, Silver escapes from the Hispaniola's brig by night and slips away in one of the lifeboats with a chest of treasure. In this movie, he has a much more dramatic escape, which also allows him to say goodbye to Jim, and for Jim to acknowledge - to a greater extent than he did in the book - how much Long John has done for him.
  • Adaptational Job Change: Hunter, and Joyce are two of Trelawney's servants in the book but are members of the ship's crew in the film.
  • Adaptational Name Change:
    • O'Brien is renamed "Haggott" for the film.
    • The skeleton Allardyce is renamed "Darby M'Graw," in reference to Captain Flint's dying words in the book.
  • Adaptational Nice Guy:
    • Billy Bones is less rambunctious and unkind towards Jim than in the book
    • As a consequence of receiving little characterization in the film, Redruth's antagonism with Jim is adapted out.
  • Adapted Out: Tom (not to be confused with Tom Redruth) and Alan do not appear in the film, nor does Mr. Dance or Dogger, or Dick Johnson.
  • Age Lift: Trelawney's servant Redruth is a cranky old man in the book and a young man in the film.
  • Bowdlerise: Adhering to studio ethics, Disney toned down the violence for a 1975 reissue of the film in order to get a G rating, which was the print used on the earliest VHS and Laserdisc versions. The uncut version was submitted to the MPAA in 1992 with a PG rating and released on Laserdisc the same year.
  • Canon Foreigner: Squire Trelawney's manservant Williams doesn't appear in the book.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Long John Silver gives Jim a small pistol early in the movie, and convinces him to keep it even when the Captain confiscates all weapons from the crew. When Jim takes back the ship, he uses the pistol to defend himself from Israel Hands.
  • Chekhov's Boomerang: At the end of the movie, when Silver has been captured and is being taken back to the ship he remembers that Jim still has the pistol Silver gave him earlier. Silver turns the tables on Squire Trelawney by seizing the pistol and making his escape.
  • Chromosome Casting: The novel had only two minor female characters, Jim's mother and John's wife; the movie has none at all, although Mrs. Hawkins is at least mentioned.
  • Decomposite Character:
    • Joyce is adapted in the film as both Williams (a loyal servant who is killed fighting the pirates, like his book counterpart), and as Joyce (another sailor who has the same name as his book counterpart, yet survives the film).
    • Job Anderson is adapted as both Roach (a pirate dies during the stockade battle while attempting to kill Jim, like his book counterpart), and Job (another pirate bears the same first name as his book counterpart yet survives until the end of the film).
  • Dies Differently in Adaptation: Redruth is beaten to death aboard the ship by the captive pirates instead of being shot, with no ceremony to his name, while Hunter is killed during the stockade battle with a cutlass to his chest rather than a bullet to his head.
  • The Dragon: Israel Hands; later, George Merry.
  • Evil Mentor: Long John to Jim, although he does genuinely care about Jim's safety
  • The Ghost: Mrs. Hawkins is mentioned a few times but is never seen.
  • Go Mad from the Isolation: Ben Gunn, after being marooned on the island for five years, though Jim intuits that Ben isn't completely mad.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Averted. It is surprising Disney was able to make this film in the 1950s with all the violence it contained.
  • Heroic RRoD: Unlike the novel, the film has Jim's injury from his fight with Israel Hands avert Just a Flesh Wound and only got worse as he made his way back through the island (and swamp, which he uses to try washing the wound and becomes more infected as a result.) When he makes it back to the cabin only to find Silver there, the injury and shock have him collapse and Livesey has to treat the wound the next day.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: In this version, Long John himself was the one who marooned Ben on the island, which, instead of leading to Ben's death, just gave him all the time he needed to find and move the treasure.
  • Killed By The Adaptation: Tom Morgan and the rest of the mutineers are all killed by the end of the film rather than being marooned on the island.
  • Large Ham: Long John Silver. Also Squire Trelawney.
  • Monochrome Casting: Mrs. Silver, a black woman, was the only non-white character in the book. The film's cast is entirely white.
  • More Despicable Minion: Pretty much all the pirates other than Long John, but Mr. Hands most overtly. Unlike George Merry, Israel Hands is smart and willing to keep his head down, accepting Long John's leadership... but he has none of John's scruples about protecting Jim.
  • Papa Wolf: Silver towards Jim. He ultimately turns on all the other pirates to save Jim's life.
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner:
  • Public Domain Character: Everybody from the original novel, which is how Haskin and Newton got away with making an unofficial sequel.
  • Spared by the Adaptation:
    • Blind Pew, the man who delivers the black spot, isn't run down by The Cavalry when they arrive to scatter the men ransacking the inn.
    • Joyce survives the battle of the stockade, unlike in the book.
  • The Starscream: George Merry rarely has a scene where he isn't challenging Silver's leadership and eventually tries to supplant him.
  • Talk Like a Pirate: Newton's Silver is the Trope Codifier.
  • Upper-Class Twit: As in the book, Squire Trelawney is the iconic image of the beef-witted country squire.
  • Walking Shirtless Scene:
    • Loyal sailors Hunter and Joyce spend the second half of the movie naked from the waist up, showing off well-sculpted chests.
    • One of Silver's last remaining men also goes shirtless, and another's shirt is unbuttoned.
  • Wham Shot: At the very end of the stockade battle, Long John Silver shoots Captain Smollett.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: When Long John comes to negotiate with the heroes, they insist he have a seat. He does so, but only on the promise that someone will help him get up afterward (since he's missing a leg and has a hard time standing up by himself). After the negotiations finish, all of them renege on their promise, and he looks genuinely hurt, and the guilt on Jim's face (and to a lesser extent, Dr. Livesey's) is quite visible.
  • Would Hurt a Child: A few of the pirates attempt to kill Jim, Israel Hands being the most notable.
    • Famously averted with Long John.