Treasure Island (1977 TV series)

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Treasure Island
Directed by Michael E. Briant
Written by Robert Louis Stevenson (novel)
John Lucarotti (screenplay)
Starring Alfred Burke
Ashley Knight
Jack Watson
David Collings
Anthony Bate
Thorley Walters
Roy Boyd
Patrick Troughton
Paul Copley
Music by Carl Davis
Release date(s) 22 January 1990 (US)
Country UK / USA
Language English

Treasure Island is a 1977 television adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s famous 1883 novel. It was filmed in 1977 on location in Plymouth and Dartmouth (Devon), and in Corsica, and also at BBC Television Centre at Wood Lane, London.

Jim Hawkins (Ashley Knight) discovers a treasure map and embarks on a journey to find the treasure, but pirates led by Long John Silver (Alfred Burke) have plans to take the treasure for themselves by way of mutiny. This four-episode adaptation by John Lucarotti, while particularly faithful to the original, adds an expanded narrative concerning the declining Daniel Hawkins, as well as clarifying Squire Trelawney's naiveté in trusting Blandly and Silver.

This takes place in the first episode; Billy Bones tempts Jim's father into arranging a two-man treasure voyage, the corrupt shipping agent Ezra Blandly guesses their intentions and tips off Silver, who hoodwinks and then cruelly tortures the information out of a hapless alcoholic Mr Arrow. Billy Bones plans founder, and Hawkins snr catches pneumonia in the rain, which finishes him.

Lucarotti's additions to the original provide useful backstory, and the pirate idiom is sufficiently well captured for these additions not to be too obvious.

While the director, Michael E. Briant, has clearly made sure that all the characters are much more strongly defined on screen than they are in the novel, and has cast most of the great TV character actors of the 70s, Alfred Burke is a quite astonishing Sea Cook; slick, violent, cunning, and dangerously plausible. The characterisation bears comparison with that of Robert Newton.

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