The Light at the Edge of the World

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The Light at the Edge of the World
Directed by Kevin Billington
Produced by Kirk Douglas
Alexander Salkind
Ilya Salkind
Alfredo Matas
Written by Tom Rowe
Rachel Billington (additional dialogue)
Based on The Lighthouse at the End of the World
by Jules Verne
Starring Yul Brynner
Kirk Douglas
Samantha Eggar
Fernando Rey
Massimo Ranieri
Renato Salvatori
Jean-Claude Drouot
Víctor Israel
Music by Piero Piccioni
Cinematography Cecilio Paniagua
Henri Decaë
Edited by Bert Bates
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
  • July 16, 1971 (1971-07-16)
Running time
120 minutes
Language English
Budget $11,000,000

The Light at the Edge of the World is a 1971 adventure film, adapted from Jules Verne's classic 1905 adventure novel The Lighthouse at the End of the World (Le Phare du bout du monde). The plot involves piracy in the South Atlantic during the mid 19th century, with a theme of survival in extreme circumstances, and events centering on an isolated lighthouse.

Despite having a large Hollywood budget, collaboration with prestigious foreign film studios, exotic shooting locations in Europe and some of the biggest name movie stars, the movie was mainly a failure at the box office.[citation needed]


The year is 1865. Will Denton (Kirk Douglas) is a jaded American miner escaping a troubled past. Seeking isolation for two reasons - to mend his broken heart after a failed romance during the California Gold Rush, and also to escape punishment after he murdered a man in a gunfight - Denton tends a lonely and isolated lighthouse with a minimal crew of three men, himself included.

The lighthouse sits on a fictional rocky island adorned with many caves carved by the crashing waves of the Atlantic Ocean; it is however set in the geographic location of the Tierra del Fuego archipelago at the southern tip of South America. Before the building of the Panama Canal, the waters off Cape Horn were perhaps the busiest and richest shipping lanes in the world (all shipping between Europe and the western coast of America had to go around the Cape) and therefore very lucrative.

Denton is contented to retreat from the world and be away from the problems of civilization, and quickly adjusts to his new supervisor, old Argentine sea dog Captain Moriz (Fernando Rey) and his youthful and innocent assistant Felipe.

A shipload of utterly malicious and sadistic pirates show up, murder everyone they can find, and extinguish the light. They are wreckers, brigands who mislead ships into the rocks to loot the cargo and prey upon the victims. Their leader Captain Jonathan Kongre (Yul Brynner) is a diabolical fiend with a seductive and charismatic facade.

Denton hides out in the caves and amongst the rocks, hiding from the pirates. He saves Italian wreck survivor Montefiore from the pirates' massacre, and together they wage a war of guerrilla tactics against Kongre and his cutthroats. Kongre breaks his own rule by keeping one captive alive - a beautiful Englishwoman named Arabella (Samantha Eggar).

Montefiore is captured while creating a diversion for an attempt by Denton to rescue Arabella, who however opts for remaining with Kongre. On the next day, Kongre has Montefiori flayed alive on his ship, trying to draw Denton out of hiding, but Denton shoots Montefiori from afar. Angered, Kongre gives Arabella to his men and withdraws to the lighthouse. Denton uses the pirates' cannon to sink their ship, along with all the pirates except for Kongre.

The finale of the film is a showdown between the only two survivors left on the island, Denton and Kongre.


Filming locations[edit]

Upon initial release the film was noted for its exotic cinematography and applauded[by whom?] because of the inherent difficulties of shooting on rocky outcrops, and also at night far away from civilization. Most of the movie was filmed in Spain. Some of the shooting locations included:[citation needed]

External links[edit]