Seven Seas to Calais (1962)





Director: Rudolph Maté, Primo Zeglio.

Starring: Rod Taylor (Sir Francis Drake), Keith Michell (Malcolm Marsh), Edy Vessel (Arabella Ducleau), Terence Hill (Babington), Basil Dignam (Sir Francis Walsingham), Anthony Dawson (Lord Burleigh), Gianni Cajafa (Tom Moon), Irene Worth (Queen Elizabeth I), Arturo Dominici (Don Bernardino de Mendoza, the Spanish Ambassador), Marco Guglielmi (Fletcher), Esmeralda Ruspoli (Mary of Scotland), Rossella D'Aquino (Potato), Umberto Raho (King Philip of Spain), Aldo Bufi Landi (Vigeois).


Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire film.

Plymouth, England, 1577. A man runs down a narrow street as if he is being pursued by someone. A man comes down a flight of steps and the running man almost starts to fight the man. Then he sheaths his sword and starts running again.

A little later five Spaniards come running down the street. They stop when they see another man standing by the street. They look the man over, conclude that this is not the man they want and start running after the other man again.

The innocent bystander now starts running after the Spaniards. Two of the Spaniards are sword fighting the man they were recently chasing. The Englishman pushes one of the Spaniards down, but the man gets out his knife and throws it into the chest of the Englishman.

The Spaniards start searching the man's pockets when our innocent bystander comes to the rescue. The two Spaniards run away. The dying man asks the bystander to take the scroll he has and give it to Francis Drake, if he loves his country. The wounded man now dies.

The bystander now rushes to the quarters of Francis Drake. He soon finds himself surrounded by Spaniards. One of the men says that the document belongs to them. The Englishman pretends he is going to give the document to the men, but instead he throws his cape over two of the Spaniards and gets out of the circle by running past them.

The Englishman runs all around the ships that are being constructed. Francis Drake sees the Englishman fighting with the Spaniards and he jumps into the battle against the men from Spain. Drake chases one man away while the bystander is pierced on his left side.

Now other men from the Drake crew join in the battle and all the Spaniards run away. The bystander, named Malcolm Marsh, tells Drake that he needs to speak with Francis Drake. Drake says he found his man. The bystander tells Drake to take the document from him. Drake does so while a crew member named Tom takesMalcolmr onboard ship.

Drake looks at the document. It's a map of the old and new worlds picturing every fort in the Pacific where the Spanish gold is gathered. He tells Captain Winter of the map and says now all they need is Her Majesty's permission to set sail for the Pacific.

St. James Palace, London. It is one of London's oldest palaces (construction began in 1531) and is situated in Pall Mall, just north of St. James's Park. It is located at Charing Cross close to Trafalgar Square. Heading southwest on The Mall roadway will bring a visitor to Buckingham Palace.

Queen Elizabeth (reigned 1558 to 1603) comes to the throne room and says she is upset to hear that the Spanish have another complaint about England. The Spanish ambassador to England says there are continued attacks of English ships on Spanish property. And on the High Seas Spanish vessels are destroyed by English pirates. And it is Captain Drake who is the worst of these privateers. He suggests Her Majesty punish Drake.

Elizabeth acts as if she never heard this man's name before. But she promises that he will be punished. The ambassador says that Drake is in the palace right now awaiting an audience with the Queen. So Elizabeth says to summon the man into her presence.

Drake is in the hallway speaking with his new aide Malcolm Marsh. Drake comes in and Elizabeth berates him for his actions against the Spanish. He tries to speak but she just talks over him. She sends Drake to the Tower of London. The Spanish ambassador is very pleased.

Meanwhile Malcolm pursues a pretty blonde named Arabella Ducleau. She has not seen him for awhile and is a bit peeved at him. He says he didn't abandon her. She asks him how long will this voyage with Drake be? About three years. Now this makes Arabella really angry. She slaps Malcolm's face and walks away from him.

Drake is taken into a meeting room. Elizabeth comes in. No, Drake is not going to the Tower. She tells him to come over to her. When he comes over she shows him the money for the voyage. She says she will give him only three years to prove he can bring Elizabeth a good profit on her investment. He kisses her hand and says he will bring her a mountain of Spanish gold.

Drake's ship is getting ready to sail. Malcolm sees Arabella and a servant waiting to board the ship. Malcolm is very happy to see her and rushes down to greet her. She says she came to see if Malcolm has changed his mind. He explains to her that he is a nobody now, but he could very well come back rich and famous. Drake has to blow the whistle literally to get him back on the ship.

32 days later. Drake says their progress is good. They will stop at Morocco to get fresh water for the continued voyage. A man named Moon says that if they continue their present course they will land at the southern tip of South America. When alone with Drake, Malcolm tells him not only is the crew restless and quarrelsome, so too are some of the officers, especially Drake's good friend Cardigan. Drake doesn't want to discuss the matter.

83rd day of the voyage and 42 days since they touched land. There is rationing of the food and water and there are two cases of scurvy. On deck the men are restless because of the rationed water. Cardigan takes over the water distribution and starts letting the men have huge amounts of it. Malcolm reports this to Drake.

Cardigan is caught red-handed preaching mutiny to the men. Drake and Malcolm hear this. When confronted, Cardigan says the crew will carry out a mutiny against Drake. Drakes tells Cardigan to go ahead and start the mutiny. The leader shouts to the men to seize Drake, but no one moves.

The unarmed Drake tells Cardigan to give him his sword. Instead, Cardigan tries to kill Drake. Drake dodges the sword thrusts of Cardigan until Malcolm throws his own sword to Drake. The two have a determined sword fight. Draks wounds Cardigan in the shoulder and then sends Cardigan's sword flying up in the air. Now Cardigan will be hanged. Malcolm asks Drake not to hang his friend, but Drake says he will not stop the hanging.

Captain Winter tells Arabella that the ships ran into a huge storm. He sailed away, but Drake stayed to fight off the tempest. The sailor does not believe that Drake or any member of his crew could have survived the storm. A man comes up to Arabella to take advantage of her weakened emotional state.

Elizabeth has to give Madrid an answer to their queries, but she insists that they are going to wait it out until Drake comes back.

Arabella's new suitor tries to kiss her. She pulls back. He said soon he can give Arabella riches and status.

Drake and much of the crew make a landing on the beach. They start looking around. They find the Spaniards taking a siesta. They take one man to question him. Then his men take the firearms away from the Spanish. They still have their swords.

The captured man says they are Portuguese, not Spanish. The man agrees to take the Englishmen to the Spanish mine. The two guards at the mine entrance are jumped on from a considerable height and are knocked out.

Drake and some of his men go into the mine. A Spaniard sees them go in.

The Spanish in the mine are using the native people as slaves. Drake and his men easily subdue the guards. A number of Spaniards now enter the mine. Drake is warned and when the two sides meet, the English use their firearms to take out quite a few Spaniards. Hot coals are dropped on the Spaniards and the natives start belting the Spaniards with rocks. Then the native men pick up tools to be used against the Spaniards. Drake captures the Spaniards. Everyone is evacuated from the mine and then the mine entrance is blown up using gunpowder.

King Philip II of Spain (reigned 1556 to 1598) from the House of Habsburg (1516-1700) uses a cane to walk to his throne and sit down. He is informed that Drake is taking Spanish gold and sinking ships off the coasts of Chile and Peru.  The King now realizes that Elizabeth has just been delaying them until Drake can make it back with his treasure of Spanish gold. The Spanish ambassador to England tells Philip II that Mary, Queen of Scots, is still Elizabeth's prisoner. He says they should make Mary Stuart the Queen of England.

Philip II says he will do nothing that will lead to war. But he wants the ambassador to get the treaty between the two countries signed and send the king's best wishes to Mary Stuart.

The Spanish ambassador brings some misinformation to Queen Elizabeth. He tells her that Drake and his crew were found washed up on the shore by Spanish mariners. The bodies were given a Christian burial. Elizabeth starts to cry.

After the Spanish ambassador leaves the throne room, Elizabeth starts laughing because she now knows for sure Drake is alive and well.

Drake tells Malcolm and Moon that he is mad because they lost the Spanish gold ship after pursuing her for three months. And now the gold ship sits at harbor right next to a Spanish man-of-war.

A Spaniard named Manuel came over to the side of the English. Drakes hears him singing a Spanish tune. He then tells Malcolm to go get ten good singers from among the crew. They practice singing a Spanish tune.

Towards night, the English dressed as Spaniards come in boats into the harbor singing at the top of their voices like a bunch of drunken sailors. They come near the gold ship and turn over the boat. The Spaniards on the ship let down the netting so the "Spaniards" can come aboard. When the English are all on board, they quickly subdue the crew.

A couple of barrels of gunpowder are placed against the Spanish man-of-war and ignited. That takes the man-of-war out of commission. They get away with the gold ship.

The two ships stop for supplies and water. The gold is transferred to the English ship.

The young man wooing Arabella asks her to take a message for his father to Mary, Queen of Scots, as she did a great kindness for his father when he was in France a while back.

Tutbury Castle. Tutbury was a medieval castle at Tutbury, Staffordshire, England. Stafforshire is a landlocked county in the West Midlands region of England. Mary was imprisoned there in 1569.

The not too smart Arabella delivers a book and a present to Queen Mary. After Arabella leaves, the queen opens the book. Highlighted in the book is a message for Queen Mary. "Patience, King and your friends are working for your freedom." Mary says: "Unless Drake comes to her rescue, I will take Elizabeth's place."

Drake tells his advisers that they will have to beach the ship to prevent her from sinking because of a leak in the ship. They see natives ashore and hope they are friendly.

Two boats filled with men in dress uniform head for the shore. The natives seem excited about the arrival of strangers. The natives give the Englishmen a feast. The people also dance for the English. Pretty, young maidens come out to be with the Englishmen. Malcolm gets paired with a girl named Poh-tah-toh. (She's the chief's daughter.)

At night the women come into the tents of the men. Parson Fletcher is upset by this and he goes to talk with Drake, who has to hide his girl from the parson. Fletcher tells Drake that this is a disgrace for maidens to be with the sailors.

The English are ready to leave. The chief says that Drake can go, but Malcolm has to stay with them. Apparently, Malcolm unknowingly agreed to marry six maidens and the chief wants to hold him to his promises. Drake now tells Malcolm he will stay here and become the first English viceroy in this part of the world.  Malcolm becomes so overwhelmed by the women that he runs for the shore and dives in the water. He swims out to the ship. The crew has a big laugh.

Queen Elizabeth is about to sign the treaty with Spain when Malcolm shows up with a letter from Drake. Yes, Drake is back. Malcolm disturbs the meeting with the Queen and the ambassador. He is about to says he has a ship full of gold, when Elizabeth cuts him off, saying that any bounty aboard the ship will be put in the control of Ambassador Don Bernardino de Mendoza. And, yet, the queen still will not sign the treaty.

After the ambassador is gone, Elizabeth tells one of her men to tell Drake to take his part of the gold before turning it over to the Spanish ambassador. And now Elizabeth is in a very good mood.

When Drake arrives in the throne room, Elizabeth makes him Sir Francis Drake. Then she tells Drake to show her England's share of the profit. He takes her to a room full of things made of Gold.

At dinner the queen eats the potato for the first time. She tells Malcolm that his potato is delicious. She asks him how he came up with such an original name? Several of the crew chokes on their drinks, while others have a hearty laugh. Malcolm doesn't say how and the queen just lets it go.

Arabella sits across from Malcolm. With her is her suitor. She gives Malcolm a hard look because she figures the story of the potato must involve a relationship with some woman.

After dinner Malcolm and Arabella kiss, but she has to tell him that she is to be married to Mr. Babington. They quarrel. That is broken by the arrival of Babington who tells Arabella to come along.

Philip II is so mad about Elizabeth's treachery that he gives his permission for military action to be taken.

There's a big problem for Elizabeth and Babington. The Spanish plot with some Englishmen to remove Elizabeth from the throne. Babington is one of those Englishmen. There will be a big party thrown by Elizabeth in a castle only five miles from Tutbury Castle. When they strike at Elizabeth they must also free Mary from her castle. Babington says he has a plan for that.

Sheffield Castle. Elizabeth holds her ball. Drake complains about having to go to too many parties. Elizabeth tells him there's a price to pay for success.

Babington tells Arabella that she has to go to Tutbury Castle with him. At the queen's orders, he is to deliver a message to her. This makes Arabella somewhat suspicious of what's going on.

One of Elizabeth's cabinet members comes to Drake to tell him there is a plot on, backed by the Spanish, to replace Elizabeth with Mary Stuart. He tells Drake to keep his eyes open because they don't know when the plot is to begin and who are the traitors.  Drake tells Moon to get the men ready because there is going to be some trouble tonight. Moon leaves.

Malcolm goes to see Arabella in her quarters. The guards try to stop him, but he pushes past them. Once inside, Malcolm is surrounded by traitors and Spanish men. He tries to get away, but is hit over the head with a vase. They want to find out from Malcolm what he knows.

Drake comes along looking for Malcolm. A guard tells him that he has not seen Malcolm.

Arabella arrives at Tutbury. She tells the guards there that she has a message from the Queen to Mary, Queen of Scots. She and Babington are taken to see Mary. Babington tells her that the hour for her freedom has arrived. Now Arrabella starts to realize that Babington is a traitor.

The guards leave from Arabella's quarters. An interrogator and a torturer work on getting Malcolm to tell them any secrets he might have. This allows Drake to come into the room where the torture is taking place. He kills the interrogator almost immediately and then knocks out the torturer.

Mary borrows Arabella's cape and plans to sneak out of the castle as Arabella. Arabella is rushed into a back room. A guard comes and says the guests must leave. Mary and Babington and some others walk to the entrance door of the castle.

An English guard shouts out that Mary has escaped. Another guard lifts up the hood on Mary's borrowed cape. Now a fight breaks out as the traitors fight to get away. Babington is grabbed by two guards. He shouts out that Elizabeth is dead and the guards are laying hands on the real Queen of England.

Elizabeth is taken to her quarters. The guards are in on the plot.

Malcolm has changed into the costume of a Spaniard. Two guards come to get Francisco and Malcolm signals with his sword that he is ready to go. The guards now go in to kill Elizabeth. When they pull the drapes open around her bed, they find that Elizabeth is not there. Drake and other guards now surround the traitors.

There were 13 men involved in the plot along with Arabella. Elizabeth comes in and tells her advisers that all the conspirators shall go to the tower. Mary will be tried for treason.

About the arrest of Arabella, Malcolm says there has been a mistake. Drake says she's guilty for she was the one carrying the letter to Mary. Malcolm responds: "Without knowing its contents." She was tricked by her friends. Arabella is devoted to the queen. So Drake says he will speak to Elizabeth.

Elizabeth gets very mad at Drake for trying to save the life of the traitor Arabella. Drake really doesn't even get to state the case for Arabella. In the quarrel Elizabeth's pearl necklace comes apart. Now she is furious with Drake, who has started picking up the pearls. She tells him to leave and he starts walking toward the door with some pearls in his hand. Elizabeth demands he bring back her pearls. He gives them to Elizabeth and tells her that she is a great queen and we love her.  Elizabeth says Drake can have the girl's life, but she will remain a prisoner in the Tower. Drake kisses her hand and thanks her.

Malcolm goes to Arabella in her cell. They hug. She tells Malcolm that she has been a fool. Malcolm tells her that her life has been spared.

Outside Babington is ready to have his head chopped off. The executioner chops off his head.

The Spanish ambassador comes to say goodbye to Elizabeth. She tells the ambassador to explain himself. The Spanish ambassador can't believe that Elizabeth doesn't know that this morning she had Mary Stuart's head cut off. Elizabeth says that was to quiet her advisers and the anger of her people.  The ambassador says the execution is regarded by Spain as an act of war.

Phillip II is mad over the death of Mary Stuart at the hands of Elizabeth Tudor. He gives the order to attack England. The army and navy will sail from Calais.

Malcolm rushes to tell Drake to tell him that the armada has been spotted.

Philip II says the British ships are scattered along the coast of the country. The Spanish will sail through unchallenged. But first they must go to Calais to embark Duke of Palma's invasion force.

Drake says they are going to stop the Spanish. He says they won't allow the Spanish to get anywhere near the coast of England. Captain Frobischer says he does not agree with Drake's plan. Drake tell him that he doesn't care whether he agrees or not, those are the orders that Frobischer will follow.

Hoist the battle flag! Drake's ship sails out to meet the Spanish fleet. The Spanish see Drake's ships. Philip II finds it hard to believe that Drake is ready to face the Spanish with only his three ships.

Drake opens fire and the Spanish return fire. Drake takes his ship almost right next to a Spanish ship and opens fire.

A messenger tells the Spanish King that Drake is retreating, headed for Calais. So the two forces are heading for the same place: Calais. Drake sends two fire ships toward the main Spanish vessel. The vessel catches fire. Some of the Spanish sailors start abandoning their ships. So now the Spanish change course. They have given up on heading for Calais.  Elizabeth gives Malcolm a release from the Tower for Arabella. Malcolm is very exited about this. Elizabeth tells Drake that there has been no captain that has served her as much as Drake.

On the dock Arabella and Malcolm kiss, as they see Drake and his crew set out to sea.


What better swash-buckling tale is there than that of Sir Francis Drake?  And it's a true story. Here was a man that was of great help to Elizabeth against their rival Spain.  He was a great hero for helping England stave off the might of the Spanish Empire which was very impressive.  I didn't really like Rod Taylor as Sir Fancis Drake.  Drake was pretty thin.  Taylor looks more like a real bruiser than a national hero.     Keith Michell (as Malcolm Marsh) and Irene Worth (as Queen Elizabeth I) both did good acting performances. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.



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