Home > Drama >

Jamaica Inn

Jamaica Inn (1983)

May. 01,1983
| Drama Thriller TV Movie

The respected squire of a quiet Cornish village is in reality the leader of a gang of murderous pirates who attack passing ships, kill their crews and steal their cargoes.


Watch Trailer


Similar titles



I hired this to complete a bunch of videos that were on a special rate for multiple hires & it turned out to be the best! I hadn't heard of it, or since! So it was very personal journey I was led on.The movie has an intriguing atmosphere that appeals to the curiosity of the observer, with quality production & a suspenseful plot. The scenery is isolating & desolate but beautiful in lush raw landscapes, much like our individual journeys through life, far different, but too, similar & parallel in many ways! The acting was fine by me & this lengthy movie took me on a journey I was not expecting to be so fully engrossed into.Yet years later, when I watched the copy of it I made long ago, before returning the hired original video & the movie was much forgotten, I found myself absorbed again into its drama & atmosphere, & watched it 3 or 4 times. And though I haven't seen it since in a busy life, the journeys it took me on, grew the more alive.When I have watched anything from Robert Louis Stevenson adaptations to Johnny Depp's "Sleepy Hollow", I am reminded of this gem that seems to have been too much neglected or passed over, by myself & the world at large."Jamaica Inn" is a passport into a surreal world that in 3 hours, we may each explore & learn from a world in isolation but far from alone, that the broader world denies us access to! Take a step, & you will find so much more!


A ship in a storm. A murder in a lighthouse. A moving light. A Wreck. A Slaughter. This TV series was filmed on location in the South West of England and the weather matched the mood of the piece. The mud and slime of men's souls can only be washed clean by the falling rain of their women-folk's tears. Except they cannot.The destruction of Mary's (Jane Seymour) family is carried out in a half-light by unseen, unfathomable forces: murderous Ship-Wreckers! She leaves Helston, and her sadness, to head for 'Jamaica Inn'!! She shouts the name gleefully, looking back from the stagecoach window that is taking her from her childhood home, to her new life, with a long-lost aunt; perhaps thinking of sun-kissed beaches, palm trees and the sensuous odour of orchids. Upon arrival at Bodmin a Vampire gloom seems to settle over her coachman. "Jamaica Inn?" - she might as well have said "Castle Dracula". Unceremoniously unloaded outside what appears to be a barren, derelict barn, she is frightened by barking rottweilers and then Vlad the Impaler grasps her from behind and drags her into the rotting hovel that is Jamaica Inn.Vlad turns out not to be Count Dracula but Joss Merlyn, an altogether more unsavoury character. His wife, clearly undead, is played by Billie Whitelaw, whilst Joss, is, we realise to our dismay: Patrick McGoohan. These two were last seen as a married couple back in 1958 in a TV Play called "This Day in Fear". McGoohan was somewhat more debonair in that one.Poor Mary is to spend a lot of the next days and months in fear. There are no beaches or palm trees at Jamaica Inn. The place seems to be the rat-hole of the western world. It rains incessantly, the building is falling down around them and there is a lot of mud. In fact, in one scene Jane Seymour seems to be collecting bricks made of mud, piling them up on a cart, whilst Trevor Eve tries to 'chat her up'. I guessed the mud-bricks were meant to be peat for the fire. Trevor was the romantic interest in the TV-movie-series. He played Jem, Joss' younger and prettier brother. Jem was a jolly horse-thief but what was big bro' Joss up to? Confusingly Mary seemed to know, as her early conversations with the battered wife, Patience (truly named!) demonstrate.Time seems to have been the main enemy of this production. Mary seemed to know things that she shouldn't have known when she knew them and I never fully comprehended whether days were passing, or weeks or months - maybe even years? I had a definite sense that the producers were conscious of remaking a well-known story and assumed that because everybody would know the story, they could just patch lots of scenes together and the viewers would figure it all out for themselves, whilst the producers concentrated on the love story between Jem and Mary. This attitude seemed to become more prevalent as the show progressed.Jane Seymour was excellent as the young terrorised girl. Contemporary reviewers seem to have thought she was 'too pretty' for the part. This seems very unfair to me. She is, of course, drop-dead gorgeous, but I found her portrayal perfectly believable. Trevor Eve, on the other hand, seemed as unconvinced as us that he was a heart-throb. Billie Whitelaws' role must have mostly ended on the cutting-room floor. Her dead body was the scariest moment in the film however. Alongside Jane, Patrick McGoohan was the other great performance. His slobbering, greasy-haired bully was as wrecked by the corruption of his life as he was by his excessive brandy consumption. Just as the ships were coaxed onto the rocks to die, so Jos was coaxed by a maniacal Vicar/Druid played by John McEnery to commit murder. When finally Joss's conscience could no longer stand the strain and his yearning confession spilled out to his niece, she, innocently communicated this to the wicked prelate. Joss received a knife in the guts and his drooling spittle ran red.There were some confusing peripheral characters who touched the story but little: a vengeful squire, his wife, some pedlar's and general vagabonds. The most odd was the Wreckers supremo. He was a vicar, as mentioned, and flitted in and out of the story, usually vaguely 'seducing' the innocent young girl. In a strange unexplained twist old Dracula seemed referenced again as it became evident that the Druid saw Mary as his ancestral wife....... This supernatural weirdness all spilled into a confusing ending and together with a needlessly romantic conclusion struck an unfortunate sour note at the death of the film.However I would hate to strike my own sour note. The production is lavish, the locations authentic. There was a splendid evocation of a 'Regency' village fair, which reminded me of another McGoohan vehicle from 1958, the movie: "The Gypsy & The Gentleman". The second big Wreck takes place in the final part of the series and is monumentally done. I believe a near full-size rig was used and it is very impressive. Patrick McGoohan gives an insight into a tormented soul, bent on destruction, whilst Jane Seymour was consistently entrancing. I wonder if the filming anticipated a longer series than three episodes because, as previously stated, some of the chronological sense was confused. The theme music is beautiful. Although available in the USA this has not been released on video or DVD in Europe. PAL copies are selling on e-bay for as much as £30. That speaks for its quality.


This television version of the novel is actually closer to the story than the Hitchcock film of 1939. In particular, my best memory of it was the handling of the actual head of the smuggler/wreckers. In the film it was Laughton playing a regency buck country squire (who was in a purgatory because of the idiots who surrounded a man of his taste). Here it is John McEnery as Reverend Davie, a fake clergyman who turned out to be one of the last practicing Druids in Cornwall. His death at the conclusion was quite impressive because he was allowed to behave as though it was a serious religious matter. It was a good conclusion to this version, which was perhaps too long but made the story a bit more coherent.


Mary Yellan (Jane Seymour) lives in the English village of Halston at the time of King George IV, and is the daughter of seaman James (Pavel Douglas) who is killed when `wreckers' trick the ship he is on into crashing onto rocks, stealing cargo and murdering the inhabitants. After Mary's mother Martha (Vivian Pickles) goes mad, Mary travels to live with her Aunt Patience (Billie Whitelaw) and be a maid for her Uncle Joss Merlyn (Patrick McGoohan), the landlord of Jamaica Inn, located on the moors of Cornwall. Mary's antipathy towards the drunken bully Joss is heightened when she learns he is the name leader of the wreckers, though she falls in love with his brother Jeremiah 'Jem' (Trevor Eve). Joss plans to leave Cornwall when public favour and the authorities turn against him, however he and Patience are thwarted by Vicar Francis Davey (John McEnery), who takes Mary with him to a Druid place of worship clifftop. Will Jem rescue Mary in time? In spite of Seymour's beauty, represented by her long hair and hooded cape costume and best observed when she listens, she works against her romantic look to make Mary anti-romantic, rebellious and afraid to let herself love Jem. It also helps that every other man who has designs on her is repulsive, and even the Vicar sends mixed sexual signals in a scene of them in a carriage together where he tells her to undress out of her wet clothes. Seymour uses the region accent and gives Mary harsh yells, tears at her father's funeral and in a close-up before she blows out a candle, a duplicitous smile to conceal Jem's illegal behavior, twitches her left eye when Jem kisses her for the first time, scratches the face and hits peddlar Harry (Michael Goldie) with a rock when he tries to rape her, trying to stab Joss, and her bloodied hands shake after finding someone dead. We see Mary often with her hair wet from the rain or strands of it covering her face, reflected in well water, sweeping, riding a cart, slapped and having her arm twisted behind her back by Joss. Seymour makes some of her lines funny - `This is suitable housiery for the likes of you', `You call these your friends?!', and `Why should I lie to you?'.The teleplay by Derek Marlowe, based on the novel by Daphne du Maurier, runs for 3 hours, though Marlowe is fortunate that du Maurier's narrative builds suspense as it continues. When Jems tells Mary that `she could be very pretty' it is laughable considering the way Seymour looks, but Joss gets a funny line to her in `Did you imagine all of God's creatures smelled like a nosegay?'.Director Lawrence Gordon Clark provides lightning for Martha's death scene and lingers tediously on the drooling Joss in a drunken confession to Mary, but cross-cuts effectively between Mary with the Vicar and Jem and then bloodhounds in pursuit.