Jump to content

Pandora and the Flying Dutchman

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Pandora and the Flying Dutchman
Theatrical release poster
Directed byAlbert Lewin
Written byAlbert Lewin
CinematographyJack Cardiff
Music byAlan Rawsthorne
Distributed byInternational Film Distributors
Release date
  • February 1951 (1951-02) (United Kingdom)
Running time
122 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
  • English
  • Catalan
  • Spanish
Budget$1.2 million[1]
Box office$1.6 million[2]
Statue of Ava Gardner as Pandora in Tossa de Mar, location where the filming took place.

Pandora and the Flying Dutchman is a 1951 British Technicolor romantic fantasy drama film written and directed by Albert Lewin. The screenplay is based on legend of the Flying Dutchman.

The film stars James Mason and Ava Gardner in the title roles, with Nigel Patrick, Sheila Sim, Harold Warrender, Mario Cabré and Marius Goring supporting.


In autumn 1930, fishermen in the fictitious small Spanish port of Esperanza make a grim discovery in their nets, the bodies of a man and a woman. The resultant ringing of church bells in the village brings the local police and the resident archaeologist, Geoffrey Fielding (Harold Warrender), to the beach. Fielding returns to his villa, and, breaking the "fourth wall", retells the story of these two people to the audience.

Esperanza's small group of English expatriates revolves around Pandora Reynolds (Ava Gardner), an alluring American nightclub singer and femme fatale. All the men love her (or believe that they do), but Pandora is unable to love anyone. One of her admirers Reggie Demarest (Marius Goring) commits suicide in front of Pandora and her friends by drinking wine that he has laced with poison, but Pandora shows indifference and later comments that she is relieved by his death.

She tests her admirers by demanding they give up something they value. Pandora agrees to marry a land-speed record holder, Stephen Cameron (Nigel Patrick), after he sends his racing car tumbling into the sea at her request. That same night, the Dutch captain Hendrik van der Zee (James Mason) arrives in Esperanza. Pandora swims out to his yacht and finds him painting a picture of her posed as her namesake, Pandora, whose actions brought an end to the earthly paradise in Greek mythology. Hendrik appears to fall in love with Pandora, and he moves into the same hotel complex as the other expatriates.

Geoffrey and Hendrik become friends, collaborating to seek background information on Geoffrey's local finds. One of these relics is a notebook written in Old Dutch, which confirms Geoffrey's suspicion that Hendrik van der Zee is the Flying Dutchman, a 16th-century ship captain who murdered his wife, believing her to be unfaithful. He blasphemed against God at his murder trial, where he was sentenced to death.

The evening before his execution, a mysterious force opened the Dutchman's prison doors and allowed him to escape to his waiting ship, where in a dream it was revealed to him that his wife was innocent and he was doomed to sail the seas for eternity unless he could find a woman who loved him enough to die for him. Every seven years, the Dutchman could go ashore for six months to search for that woman.

Despite her impending wedding to Stephen, Pandora declares her love for Hendrik, but he is unwilling to have her die for his sake, and tries to provoke her into hating him.

Pandora is also loved by Juan Montalvo (Mario Cabré), an arrogant, famous bullfighter, who murders Hendrik out of jealousy. But as soon as Montalvo leaves, Hendrik comes back to life as if nothing had happened. He attends the bullfight the next day, and when Montalvo sees him in the audience, he becomes petrified with fear and is fatally gored by the bull. Before dying, Montalvo tells Pandora about his murder of his romantic rival, leaving her confused.

On the eve of her wedding, Pandora asks Geoffrey if he knows anything about Hendrik that will clear up her confusion. Once he sees the Flying Dutchman preparing to sail away, he hands her his translation of the notebook. However, the Dutchman's yacht is becalmed. On learning the truth, Pandora swims out to Hendrik again. He shows her a small portrait of his murdered wife. She and Pandora look exactly alike. Hendrik explains they are man and wife and that through her he has been given the chance to escape his doom, but he rejected it because it will cost her death. They embrace. She asks him when it will happen. He explains they have eternity now. They kiss, and suddenly, there is a fierce storm. Geoffrey watches as the vessel is overwhelmed and sinks.

In the present, Geoffrey toasts the Dutchman: "May the consummation of your love endure as long as the punishment that made you worthy of it!"



Albert Lewin, an MGM producer at the time, was able to produce Pandora due to the postponement of Quo Vadis in 1949.[3] The film includes a number of literary references, including Matthew Arnold's "Dover Beach", The Rubaiyat, and Ernest Hemingway's 1926 novel The Sun Also Rises.[4]

It was primarily filmed in Tossa de Mar, on the Costa Brava in Catalonia, Spain. The land record speed scenes were shot at Pendine Sands in Wales. In Tossa de Mar, a statue of Gardner was erected in 1996 on the hill overlooking the town's main beach.The film is mostly spoken in English, but some characters speak Catalan (the local fishermen at the beginning of the film) and Spanish (the bullfighter's entourage).

Artist Man Ray, a friend of Albert Lewin, produced some sets for Pandora. He created particular cubist-style chess pieces and several paintings seen in the film, notably the surrealist scene in the De Chirico fashion.[5]

In the United States, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer delayed the film until the release of Gardner's star-making performance in Show Boat (1951). The tactic proved effective, as Show Boat solidified her status as a rapidly rising star.

A digitally restored version of the film was released in February 2020.[4] The restoration process took more than a dozen years, with the Cohen Media Group ultimately funding a 4K version, which included more than 700 hours of digital restoration on 177,120 frames of the film.[6]


According to MGM records, Pandora and the Flying Dutchman earned $1,247,000 in the US and Canada and $354,000 elsewhere.[2] Other records say it cost £308,800 and earned producer income of £225,000.[7] The film was one of the most popular films at the British box office 1951.[8]

Howard Thompson, of The New York Times, gave the film a mixed review upon release.[4] He described the film as a "serious, complex but unexciting study of passions and sublime love". Thompson also praised the “brilliance and invention” of the cinematography by Jack Cardiff, noting that its most rewarding moments include Cardiff's "capturing the ghostly qualities of the tale and the exquisite beauties of Spanish settings and folkways."[9]

It holds a rating of 67% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 33 reviews.[10]

Comic book adaptation[edit]


  1. ^ Thomas F. Brady (11 Feb 1951) "Hollywood Digest: Speculative Film-Making on Low Budgets Increases--Metro's Roving Directors Unusual Experiment Of 'Teresa', 'Flying Dutchman'", New York Times p. 97
  2. ^ a b The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study.
  3. ^ Bradyspecial, Thomas F. (30 May 1949). "LEWlN TO PRODUCE INDEPENDENT FILM; Postponement of 'Quo Vadis' Enables Him to Do 'Pandora and the Flying Dutchman' (Published 1949)". The New York Times. Retrieved 16 August 2023.
  4. ^ a b c Hoberman, J. (5 February 2020). "How 'Pandora and the Flying Dutchman' Still Casts a Spell (Published 2020)". Retrieved 16 August 2023.
  5. ^ "Man Ray Surrealism".
  6. ^ Turan, Kenneth (13 February 2020). "Knockout 1951 indie 'Pandora and the Flying Dutchman' returns looking better than ever". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 16 August 2023.
  7. ^ Chapman, J. (2022). The Money Behind the Screen: A History of British Film Finance, 1945-1985. Edinburgh University Press p 102.
  8. ^ Thumim, Janet. "The popular cash and culture in the postwar British cinema industry". Screen. Vol. 32, no. 3. p. 258.
  9. ^ Thompson, Howard (7 December 1951). "THE SCREEN: THREE NEWCOMERS ARRIVE HERE; 'I'll See You in My Dreams,' a Picture About Gus Kahn, Opens at Music Hall (Published 1951)". The New York Times. Retrieved 16 August 2023.
  10. ^ "Pandora and the Flying Dutchman". Rotten Tomatoes.
  11. ^ "Movie Love #11". Grand Comics Database.

External links[edit]