Spectacular aerial photograph of Edinburgh Castle, surmounting its Rock, surrounded by the fair city, from Phil Rosen’s 1949 Robert Louis Stevenson adaptation THE SECRET OF ST IVES. Kind of disturbing, almost, that a 1949 view can stand in for a 1807 one with so little obvious anachronism. Almost as if we’re not trying to keep up.
A Napoleonic officer escapes from military prison by burrowing out of Edinburgh Castle (good luck with that volcanic rock, chum) and goes on the lam with his “Scottish” girlfriend. It was natural enough for Stevenson to write a heroic Frenchman battling villainous English soldiers, on account of the “Auld Alliance” — the mutual (hopefully mild) antipathy between the French and English doesn’t really include the Scots. We hate everybody, but we maybe hate the French a bit less than the rest of you.
The movie is kind of turgid (it’s Rosen’s last, after 35 years of B-movie hell), not helped by Richard Ney struggling with a dopey French accent. Everybody French is American, everybody Scottish is something else. Good old baddie Henry Daniell gets to be English. Leading lady Vanessa Brown is impossibly cutesie-wootsie, so it made sense when I discovered she was the original Girl in The Seven Year Itch on Broadway. At one point she has to fake a Scottish accent to confuse English pursuers, and does a creditable job (possibly via dubbing, but Brown was multi-lingual so possibly she learned the sounds by rote) — not only are the English convinced, they can’t understand a word she’s saying.