Seven Seas to Calais (1962)
Rod Taylor plays Sir Francis Drake in this swashbuckling historical adventure.
It's an Italian film (officially titled "Il Dominatore Dei Sette
Mari") with a full cast of Elizabethan-era characters.
ON THE SCREEN
At the outset, Capt. Francis Drake sets sail in pursuit of the Spanish
and their treasure, with the backing of Queen Elizabeth (Irene Worth). After
weeks at sea, in which he withstands an ill-founded mutiny attempt, Drake
and his crew outwit and overpower the Spaniards and take their gold.
Upon his return, Drake earns knighthood and the affection and admiration
of the queen. The action doesn't end there. Treachery is afoot, but it's
thwarted by Drake and his men. And the movie concludes with a pretty spectacular
cannon battle between the outnumbered British and the Spanish Armada.
At the end, Drake sails off to sea for more glorious adventure.
Viewed today, a scene involving New World natives looks silly. But overall,
it's a stirring film, and Taylor gives a hearty, convincing performance
as the heroic sea-captain/explorer/privateer.
BEHIND THE SCENES
"Seven Seas to Calais" was shot in Rome and around the Bay
of Naples in late 1961. Studio filming was kept to a minimum, and all sea
sequences were shot off the Italian coast near Naples. The ships themselves,
nearly a year under construction at a Naples shipyard, combined 16th-century
exterior design with 20th-century construction capable of handling the 20
tons of CinemaScope camera equipment and crews.
The costumes and the setting were a challenge for Taylor, who wound up
handling both with swashbuckling style.
According to the production notes for the movie, Taylor said:
Drake's tights really worried me, and when I saw the doublets,
ruffed sleeves and lace collars that went with them, I backed up in horror.
But when I gave them a try and found I didn't look quite such an idiot
as I had expected, I just decided to forget them. After all, those were
the clothes they wore. You can't play Sir Francis Drake in blue jeans.
Once into the skin of Drake, other ideas came naturally.
We were at sea off Salerno, Italy, for example, when the sails of the Golden
Hind were fouled up and the crew was unable to bring them down. I couldn't
imagine a fine sailor like Drake just standing by watching without doing
anything, so I jumped into the action and hauled on the rope with the crew.
And that's the way you'll see it in the film.