As I continue my look at the various takes on Long John Silver, we are looking at what I believe is the first adaption of Robert Louis Stevenson’s story I saw.
Much like The Muppet Christmas Carol before it, this movie is a fun and silly take on Treasure Island. One of the biggest elements that I believe helps this movie be so memorable for so many is the performance of Tim Curry as Long John Silver. Curry has played many memorable villainous roles and for ’90s kids, his performance as Long John Silver may be in that grouping.
This is not the first nor the last time that I will be looking at Curry for this series as when I did my Christmas Villains series, I took a look at Maestro Forte, one of his lesser villainous roles. Thankfully, we have a great villainous role to look at.
It is always a treasure to look at a character played by Tim Curry.
Yes, Curry has a Long John Silver Muppet and that’s part of the reason why I chose that image. I’ve already said everything one could about Curry in the introduction. Even when a movie is bad, Curry is the best part about it. Thankfully, this isn’t a bad movie and it just feels like Curry had a blast acting alongside the Muppets and in some regards, he out Muppets, the Muppets.
Now unlike in the 1950 movie, Curry’s Silver is introduced aboard the ship. This sets him up as the unassuming cook and being someone that Jim could trust as he comes across as a regular and unassuming person.
Having a moment such as this is key in speaking to how Silver can use his unassuming presence to gain the trust of others around him. Now yes, obviously this movie does point out that everyone aboard the ship is a pirate but that comes from this being a more comedic take. This is something that I will discuss at length when looking at Silver’s relationship with Jim in this movie as there is a genuine bond and sense of heartbreak that comes from how the relationship unravels between these two.
To describe Silver’s personality is to say that he is something of a complicated man. Yes, he’s evil and will cheat and steal to get what he wants. At the same time, however, he does have a sense of honor about him. Think of it as the honor amongst thieves. This is perhaps best seen with Curry’s Silver when his crew turns on him after there is no treasure on the island and he protects Jim by shooting at his crew.
Relationship with Jim Hawkins
I truly enjoy the relationship between Jim and Silver in this movie as it feels so much more genuine than that in the 1950 movie. I believe one thing that helps to bond them is they both lost their fathers at a young age.
Jim Hawkins : Long John, please don’t drop it! It was my father’s. It’s all I have of his. Please… please…
Long John Silver : [hands it back] I’m sorry, lad. I were only fooling. How old were you when he died, then?
Jim Hawkins : Seven.
Long John Silver : I were eight when my father died at sea. First mate, he was.
Jim Hawkins : My father was a first mate, too!
Long John Silver : Was he now? By the powers, what a coincidence!
Just this small exchange helps to set up how important this relationship is. Now, there is another aspect to touch upon that does come up a lot when looking at these two and that is the idea of found family. In this movie, Jim already has that in a way with Gonzo and Rizzo but once he becomes friends with Silver, he starts to ignore Silver.
Now, this makes sense as these two were super popular during the nineties, and including them makes a lot of sense. I’m just happy that they didn’t go with the original plan, which was to have Gonzo and Rizzo split the Jim Hawkins role between them. Kermit’s nephew, Robin was also considered and I do get the idea but I feel as though for a role such as this, it makes the most sense to have a human actor in this role.
In early development for the film, Gonzo and Rizzo would’ve been the lead characters, named “Jim” and “Hawkins” (respectively). Robin the Frog was also considered for the role, potentially being aged up.
Don’t misunderstand me as Gonzo is my favorite Muppet but I just don’t think there’d be the same emotional weight with a Muppet playing this role.
Polly Lobster, Clueless Morgan, & Mad Monty
Now unlike the Robert Newton entry, I feel that it is important to look at the three lackeys that follow Long John’s orders. They’re fun if nothing too memorable. Mad Monty is perhaps the most forgettable whereas Clueless Morgan is the funniest because of how dumb he is. The movie does provide a sense of how much they’ll do for Silver but they’ll turn on him as they do when they present him with the Black Spot.
Also, I love how he chews out his crew for using a page from The Bible for the Black Spot. He may be a pirate and he’ll stab you in the back but he still respects the good book.
When you put Tim Curry in a movie, you have him sing and this song is just such a blast. Seriously, it’s one of the best songs in the whole movie which is saying a lot considering how strong this film’s soundtrack is. It’s just a bunch of silly fun that is always a joy to listen to.
Most Evil Deed
This one is tough and I don’t want to repeat myself even though Silver does take Jim, hostage, in this movie but I think in some ways even though it is standard for adaptions, the way that Silver tricks the crew into believing Mr. Arrow has died is just so cruel. Although Mr. Arrow does have some fun with that when he comes back from the “dead”
The Last We of Long John Silver
I’m almost convinced that Curry’s Silver might have drowned as we see him leave the ship in a smaller lifeboat with some of the treasure but in the last shot we truly see, his boat has sprung a leak.
I get that once again this is a more comedic take on the movie but when you stop and think about Silver’s situation here, it gets a bit dark. In the moment, it’s funny but dark.
Is Tim Curry A Good Long John Silver?
I’d say so as he’s funny and entertaining while also bringing so many interesting layers to him as a character. Newton’s Silver felt like nothing more than just a bad guy compared to Curry’s where yes he is the main antagonist but there are moments where you hope that he turns around. This is also true of the final version I’ll be looking at. Join me next time as I look at…
John Silver (Treasure Planet)