Superb direction, excellent casting, expressive playing and fine production offset an uneven screenplay to make Jamaica Inn a gripping version of the Daphne du Maurier novel. Since it’s frankly a blood-‘n’-thunder melodrama, the story makes no pretense at complete plausibility.
Yarn concerns a gang of smugglers and shipwreckers on the Cornish coast in the early 19th century and the district squire who is their undercover brains. Young naval officer joins the band to secure evidence against them and a young girl who comes from Ireland to stay with her aunt saves him from being hanged by the desperadoes.
Balance of the story is a development of the chase technique. Atmosphere of the seacoast and the moors is strikingly recreated and the action scenes have a headlong rush. Withal, there are frequent bits of brilliant camera treatment and injections of salty humor. It’s a typical Alfred Hitchcock direction job.
Charles Laughton has a colorful, sinister part in the villainous squire with a strain of insanity. Maureen O’Hara is a looker and plays satisfactorily in the limited confines of the ingenue part.