This adaptation of Graham Greene’s novel has much to commend it. Most glaring fault is amount of talk used.
Story is told in flashback while Richard Attenborough is undergoing torture in prison. He relates how, as an orphan, he becomes the ward of Michael Redgrave, goes to sea with him and his crew of smugglers and is sharply disciplined because he is a poor sailor. He loathes the life and when he is flogged for an offense he did not commit, his love and admiration for his guardian turn to hate. He takes vengeance by giving him away to the customs men. In the ensuing fight one of the customs men is killed and several smugglers are arrested.
Attenborough flees, taking refuge in a lonely cottage the boy meets the step-daughter of the murdered man who approves his treachery and incites him to give evidence against his former shipmates.
Most mature performance comes from Redgrave who plays the gentleman-smuggler with a sure touch. Attenborough, as the coward who finds courage, has his moments, but Joan Greenwood is somewhat handicapped by a slow genuine Sussex dialect as Attenborough’s real love. Jean Kent is alarmingly modern as an 1820 vamp.