Posted by Peter Fuller
American director Albert Lewin (The Picture of Dorian Gray) and legendary British cinematographer Jack Cardiff made a real oddity when they lensed 1951’s Pandora and the Flying Dutchman, which is being screened at the BFI Southbank on 3 and 13 January 2017 as part of the Martin Scorsese curates season.
The old legend of a loner doomed to sail the seas forever unless he’s redeemed by a woman’s love is transposed here to 1930s Spain, centering on Ava Gardner’s man-eating, destructive Pandora who becomes intrigued by the arrival of James Mason’s mysterious yachtsman, Hendrik.
Told through flashback after the bodies of Pandora and Hendrik are found washed ashore (that’s not a spoiler by the way), the melodrama soon unfolds to reveal that Hendrik is in fact the real Flying Dutchman, who has suffered centuries of anguish over killing his wife. The manipulative, yet irresistible Pandora, meanwhile, has enjoyed playing with her suitors but must now choose between the man she promised to marry or Mason’s tortured soul…
Highly reminiscent of those gloriously lush Powell-Pressburger films of the 1940s, Lewin’s stylish romance boasts Cardiff’s stunning Technicolor camerawork.
From Gardner’s gowns to the gorgeous Spanish coastline (shot in the Costa Brava resort of Tossa de Mar), this hallucinatory fable of love and death is well deserving of its 2010 restoration by George Eastman House.
It’s also a chance for classic film fans to see the alluring Gardner strut her stuff as the dreamy vixen, while a moody Mason chews the scenery in his distinctively clipped burgundy baritone.
Pandora and the Flying Dutchman screens at NFT3 on 3 January at 18:10 and 13 January at 20:40. Tickets go on sale from 13 December, click here.
The restored classic is also available in a 2010 dual format edition from Park Circus containing both DVD and Blu-ray versions, plus a range of extras – the highlight being a 1947 short on the death of famed Spanish bullfighter, Manolete (the inspiration behind Mario Cabré’s matador in the film).