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The Buccaneers (TV series)

The Buccaneers was a 1956 Sapphire Films television drama series for ITC Entertainment, networked by CBS in the US and shown on ATV and selected ITV companies in the UK.

Starring Robert Shaw as Dan Tempest, the series, aimed at children, followed the adventures of Tempest and his crew of former pirates as they made their way across the seven seas in The Sultana.

The series ran for 39 half-hour monochrome episodes and was produced by Hannah Weinstein and Sydney Cole for Sapphire Films Limited. Director was Ralph Smart. They were made at Nettlefold Studios at Walton-on-Thames and made use of a model of the prow of a ship in a studio as well as some buildings and painted backgrounds, with some outdoor scenes added which could not be done in a studio (probably some from the nearby River Thames).

This series was one of very many swashbuckling adventure series produced during the period by or for Lew Grade's ITC.

Main cast

Various parts by Tony Thawnton, Terence Cooper, Rupert Evans, Roy Purcell and Denis Lacey.

Show details

The first episode has Captain and new Governor, Woodes Rogers turn up at (Nassau) New Providence island to clean up the pirates there, where he is authorised by the King to offer them all pardons for their past sins. The men know Rogers from his pirate past that he is an honest man and some accept but Blackbeard (George Margo) and some of his crew disagree and make trouble. Rogers stops a duel between Blackbeard and Ben, shooting Blackbeard in the hand, the same hand he uses a minute later to duel using swords, with Rogers. Blackbeard is disarmed but then Rogers is knocked out by Sawney Alfie Bass who is not right in the head. Blackbeard and his men escape to fight another day. Episode also has Benjy as Hugh David, Andrew Crawford as Captain Ben Hornigold, Brian Worth as Rackam, Edwin Richfield as Armando, Peter Bennett as Costellaux, Paul Hansard as Alfie and Patrick Jordan as Morgan. The tavern on the island is called "Fountain of Youth".

In the second episode, we find that the date is 1st August 1718 and that Beamish's ship, the sole guardian of New Providence is named "Delicia". Pirate Captain (Charlie) Vane (Brian Worth) who refused to take the King's pardon attacks the colony. Captain Dan Tempest returns to the island in episode 3. His girlfriend, who works as a dancing girl in the tavern is named Lolita (Judith Wyler). Tempest left two months before Rogers arrived and has been around the Horn (Cape Horn), pirating and comes back with a lot of treasure. Rogers beats him in a swordfight and Tempest apparently reforms so is sent in charge of a vessel to sell the island's goods in Charleston, Carolina. Blackbeard turns up again but is easily beaten. Peter Bennett who was Sikes in episode 2 plays Murchison in episode 3.

There was some swapping around of roles amongst the actors working on this series. Tempest in episode 4 now has three close shipmates: Armando, Taffy and Gaff. Governor Rogers has gone to Jamaica before this episode starts, with Hornigold. The Spanish land what appears to be a friendly force on the island then take over and tell Beamish that now Spain is at war with Britain. Tempest had decided to go back to his pirating ways but instead saves the Fort with his three shipmates.

Episode 5 features Dickon, a wild young boy who is nicknamed "The Wasp" (Wilfred Downing). It is September 13th, 1718 and Tempest is given a commission to be a privateer. Dickon is captured by Tempest and becomes his cabin boy and unknowingly leads Tempest into Blackbeard's trap on his brig, "Queen Anne's Revenge" (Blackbeard is now played by Terence Cooper who at other times goes back to playing Costellaux). When the pirates throw their pistols overboard into what should be the sea, there are audible clinks as they hit ground. Episode 6 features ambergris (whale sick) which is needed to make perfumes, necessary in those days before soap was invented so worth five times as much as gold. Gold fever strikes the men and there are betrayals and death. Terence Cooper again plays a villain, Grimes, and old hand Noel Purcell played Pat with Tony Thawnton playing Sykes. A centigrade thermometer was used in this show, though centigrade did not appear till 1742, about 24 years later.

Episode 7 has slaves taking over a ship. Tempest captures them and using money taken from the slaver, frees them to work on New Providence. Episode 8 has shore cannons shooting too fast to reload and without moving the guns, they are able to hit a fast moving distant ship (Black Corsair) every time in the same area. In episode 9 Blackbeard in his disastrous contacts with Dan Tempest is now beginning to resemble the unlucky "Cut-Throat Jake" of Captain Pugwash fame as he attempts to steal some women bound for New Providence and ends up with his crew captured and swimming for his life. A second ship other than the one usually used in the series looks like it was painted on the negatives, white and grey instead of white and black.

Episode 10 has an epidemic on New Providence and the only way to cure it is to kidnap a Spanish doctor. Alec Mango again plays the villain whose rotting furs are full of typhus carrying fleas. Episode 11 is full of action starting when some sailors on New Providence are press-ganged into the service of Spanish pirates under El Supremo (Ferdy Mayne). Tempest and Dickon go undercover to stop them intercepting the Felicity which is bring supplies to their island, ending with the ship being blown up (press-ganged men and all) in a re-use of the explosion scene early in episode 8. After the high point of episode 11, episode 12 is like an episode of St Trinians where a French pirate attempts to sell seven women to New Providence, they take over his ship, then beat Dan Tempest. A low spot in the series, starring Joan Sims as chief of the "wimmin".

Episode 13. There is a Spanish presence in the area which is stopping food reaching the island so they are living on fish unlike the 9 Spanish prisoners who are eating meat under the articles of war. Armando (who has acquired a strong accent), Gaff and Taffy decide to do something about it. There is success in that the Spanish ship is blown up (with the familiar explosion from episode 8) and the promised food ship arrives, and failure in that now they now have 49 prisoners who are all eating better than they are. Episode 14 features Chantey Jack (Sidney James) as a wandering minstrel (Sid James sings in this episode). He knew Dickon's father, Johnny Spencer. Jack is killed off a few minutes into the show but not before he has talked of "The Hawk", given Dickon a map and the others a song which tells where treasure is buried. Anthony Dawson plays Captain Flask.

Episode 15 introduces Captain Clip West (Bill Owen), a pirate who even gives other pirates a bad name. Captured by Tempest after stealing from New Providence, West persuades the gullible Phineas Bunch (Willoughby Goddard) to release them, they take over the ship and maroon Tempest and his men but it is not long before the tables are turned again. Episode 16 has Dan Tempest cheat French privateer, Gentleman Jack (actually a woman, Anne Bonny played by Hazel Court out of a prize ship by a clever ruse. Bonny tries threats and tricks then woman's wiles to get it back. She gets it in the end, minus its valuable cargo. Beamish is now called "Edward".

Episode 17. Van Brugh (Alec Mango) has been a background villain in a number of episodes and now he has put some bad words in about Acting Governor Beamish to Britain. Mainwaring (Lewis Gedge}, (pronounced Mannering, as in Dad's Army) is the new Governor and Admiral Bingham (Stringer Davis) has to decide whether Beamish is guilty of running an island full of pirates so should be hung. Mainwaring is strong on discipline and wants to change everything on the Island but Tempest believes that greed is his weakness and has a plan involving buried treasure that he believes will beat him. Episode 18 has The Sultana beached so her hull can be scraped. The Spaniards attack and Beamish (who has become an open-shirted he-man for this episode) is kidnapped by the evil Rodriguez (Richard Pasco) along with Dickon to try and make Beamish reveal the date of a secret convoy.

Episode 19 has a trader's estate at stake. The heir is missing and Piggott Dawson France who Dickon recognises as a thief he once knew is after it and knows he will be happy to trade with the enemy, Spain. The only way Tempest and Dickon can stop this is for Dickon to pretend to be an heir too. Lawyer Pym Willoughby Goddard must decide who is the real heir. Episode 20 has Captain Steele (Ivan Craig) delivering Lady Hilary Winrod (Sarah Lawson) to Dan Tempest so he can take her to Lord Winrod (Derek Nimmo) in Barbados, supposedly for a honeymoon. Captain Mendoza (Roger Delgado), a Spanish Captain tries to snatch her and it is down to Tempest to get her to safety after he finds out the real purpose of her mission. Episode 21 has the villainous Calico Jack (Brian Worth) turn up on New Providence. Tempest could have kept him and his crew in line but he's taking a cargo to the Carolinas (so not in this show). After causing some trouble, Calico Jack learns that Tempest has a valuable cargo so plans to ambush him using The Sultana and hatches a plan with the equally evil Van Brugh so it's up to Beamish and Tempest's shipmates who have been left behind to stop him. Episode 22 has Dickon accidentally kill an albatross, a sign of bad luck. This continues when they find a derelict ship which is taken in tow with Gaff and Dickon aboard but the ship seems to be haunted by its original owner; the blood thirsty pirate, Captain Van Der Meer who Taffy saw executed 15 years ago. Then Dickon disappears. Colin Douglas was De Groot (not named in the show) and Alfred Burke his mate. Two model ships used in this episode. The ships looked convincing but the sea didn't.

In episode 23, the Sultana and her crew attacks ships and now threatens New Providence unless they pay them £10,000. The citizens call for Dan Tempest and his crew to be shot not knowing that they are prisoners on The Sultana which is now in the hands of Don Fernando Estaban (played by a clean shaven Roger Delgado) and his men who are pretending to be Tempest and her crew. Gaff Guernsey is ready to get married in episode 24 but finds out too late that his bride to be, Betsy's (Anna Walmsley) mother, Mother Doughty (Ena Burrill) is a Ma Barker type who with her five sons leads undercover pirate raids which Tempest is trying to stop. Gaff is torn between his loyalty to Betsy and her mother and Tempest and his friends. An unconvincing model ship alight because you can't have miniature flames.

Episode 25 and while Tempest has been away, Don Estaban has taken over New Providence, again played by Roger Delgado but now with his trademark beard and moustache. Tempest and Beamish's plans are hampered by traitors who betray them to the Spanish. Tempest is helped by Maria (Gillian Owen) who is Armando's wife (they have two children we see from episode 26). In episode 26, a hurricane has caused great damage on New Providence. It has also blown a Spanish treasure ship onto rocks nearby, money for the war against Britain. It is up to Tempest and his men to rescue the gold with the help of local Indians/natives, persuaded by Armando who is one of them.

Episode 27 and the women from episode 12 are back. They are fed up because while the men like their company, no one wants to marry them and unless someone does, they are leaving. Taff has a narrow escape, then it's down to Sam Bassett, Beamish's number two man. The women, led by Abigail Joan Sims find out he is being pushed into marriage and decide to leave the island only to wind up in the hands of slave traders led by La Forte (Paul Eddington). Episode 28. Start of shows with Dan Tempest writing in ship's log. It has a man named Martin (Thomas G Duggan) who asks Tempest to help him get hold of Aztec treasure (gold) which the Spanish are also after. Five start into the jungle but only two make it to the gold where the Aztecs capture Tempest and Martin.

Episode 29. £20,000 worth of gold has been stolen from a merchant ship bound for the British navy and is in the hands of a greedy and wicked old Spanish Marquesa (Jean Cadell) who is going to cheat King Phillip out of it and keep it. Tempest and his men decide to get it back for Britain but have to contend with the Marquesa's many tricks and with her men, Sebastian (Conrad Phillips who uses a strange accent) and Gomez (Bruno Barnabe). Episode 30 has Tempest leaving Gaff Guernsey in charge of The Sultana while he takes a cargo to Charleston to sell, but Gaff and the crew of The Sultana are all with Tempest later in Charleston. The "Company" (unnamed) are in charge there and make the rules and pay a third or less of what a cargo is worth, using strong-arm tactics on any who oppose them. Tempest decides to break their monopoly so all traders can get a fair price. Robert Perceval as Sir Charles Johnson, Ballard Berkley as Rafton, Paula Meadows as Jane Griffiths and John Harvey as Lawyer Knox.

Episode 31 has Tempest deciding to bury his treasure for safe keeping but he and his men are surprised by Pegleg, alias the bullet-proof Captain Finn (Richard Johnson) and his crew who steal the treasure. Tempest realises that there must be a spy on The Sultana and sets about planting a spy in Pegleg's crew. Very minor role by Wilfrid Brambell, also John Salew as Cookie, Danny Green as Noah and Jack Hedley as Raikes. Episode 32 and Dickon is back (for one episode and from where?). Two children stowaway, Flip (Peter Soule) and Jenny (Jane Asher). Their father (Purdy, played by Colin Douglas (actor)), an indentured servant to Lord Hinch (Robert Hardy) has gone to jail because he demands that his children be educated and refuses to work till they are. To solve their problems, Tempest lets himself and his men be captured.

Episode 33 has The Sultana taking "Understandable Perkins" (Ronan O'Casey) back to Charleston. Perkins and his fellow Indian fighters have gotten rid of the Indians from around Charleston making the land worth four times as much and they refuse to pay the new rent. First Tempest and his men go to jail and then Perkins, then they hatch a plan to bring the Indians back so the Indian fighters are needed again. Episode 34 has The Sultana delivering tax-free farm implements to Virginia because they are too expensive to buy locally but they find the crops have already been harvested. However they were stolen so the farmers have lost everything until school mistress Higgins (Adrienne Corri) helps them find where the crops went. Howard Pays as Pennington, boys - Barry Fennell and Claude Kingston, girl - Jane Asher.

Episode 35 has Major Percy (Ewan Solon) offering a miserly price for a tobacco crop on behalf of the Crown. Louis Brion (Andre Charisse) needs a good price and Tempest's girlfriend Paula (Jane Griffiths) persuades him to take the cargo where he can get a good price for it but in doing so they are discovered and the cargo impounded. Percy now has Captain Barker (Michael Golden) take the crop to London for sale for him. If Tempest tries to stop him, he will be accused of piracy but Tempest has a plan. Episode 36 and the Sultana comes on a woman (Rebecca played by Virginia Maskell) in a rowing boat. Tempest suspects she is a decoy to lure them into the hands of the terrible Turk (Marne Maitland) but she insists that the Turk is holding her husband, George Bradbury (Derek Waring), captive. Tempest decides to turn the tables and use the woman as a decoy against the Turk.

Episode 37. Tempest and his crew with the help of Dougal (John Harvey) are trying to get David MacGregor (played by Charles Houston and called David Ramsey in credits) off of Prisoner's Island (where they have been transported to) to Port Royal where he can plead the Scot's case. Marsh (Alfred Burke) is in charge and intends hanging David. The "Instruments of War" are bagpipes used to call other Scots to battle. Andrew Keir plays David's father (The Laird) and Gay Cameron as Sheila, his girlfriend. Episode 38. Captain Drewitt was murdered and now his wife (Ilona Ference) and son, Edwin (Michael Caridia) must manage as best as they can. But Major Langley (Brian Oulton) is after the Captain's treasure and has set the evil Black Bart (Alex Scott) on Tempest when he tries to help them. The ghost of Armando helps them win the day.

Episode 39 and we find out that the Customs and Excise of two centuries ago are just as unpleasant as they are today, under the guise of doing necessary work. Josiah Parkerhouse (Miles Malleson) has printed a news sheet telling the truth about Sir Joplin James (Noel Coleman) and his cronies when Tempest saves him from being arrested. Tempest lets Parkerhouse continue his printing of the truth aboard the Sultana, despite a C&E officer being aboard and then with the help of a woman who sells bread and such, distributes it to the people on the island (who can all read!) and it isn't long before Sir James is kicked out of his office. Also starred Maxwell Shaw as Sharp, Jean Bloor as Mrs Miles (baker), Walter Horsburgh as Magistrate and Dennis Edwards as an Officer.

Sources report that Robert Shaw was unavailable for the first few episodes, but nevertheless shooting went ahead without him. In the majority of episodes, he is listed as "With" rather than "Starring" in the title sequence, for reasons that are open to speculation.

The complete series is available on R2 DVD from Network in the UK. There are a number of public-domain DVDs of the series in the North American market, as well as a complete series release.

Episode list

  • 1) Blackbeard - Does not feature Robert Shaw
  • 2) The Raiders - Does not feature Robert Shaw
  • 3) Captain Dan Tempest - Introduces the lead character for the first time
  • 4) Dan Tempest's War with Spain
  • 5) The Wasp
  • 6) Whale God
  • 7) The Slave Ship
  • 8) Gunpowder Plot
  • 9) The Ladies
  • 10) The Surgeon of Sangre Rojo
  • 11) Before the Mast
  • 12) Dan Tempest and the Amazons
  • 13) The Articles of War
  • 14) Hand of the Hawk
  • 15) Marooned
  • 16) Gentleman Jack and the Lady
  • 17) Mister Beamish and the Hangman's Noose
  • 18) Dead Man's Rock
  • 19) Blood Will Tell
  • 20) Dangerous Cargo
  • 21) The Return of Calico Jack
  • 22) Ghost Ship
  • 23) Conquistador
  • 24) Mother Doughty's Crew
  • 25) Conquest of New Providence
  • 26) Hurricane
  • 27) Cutlass Wedding
  • 28) The Aztec Treasure
  • 29) Prize of Andalusia
  • 30) Dan Tempest holds an Auction
  • 31) The Spy Aboard!
  • 32) Flip and Jenny
  • 33) Indian Fighters
  • 34) Mistress Higgins' Treasure
  • 35) To the Rescue
  • 36) The Decoy
  • 37) Instruments of War
  • 38) Pirate Honour
  • 39) Printers Devil

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