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Uncharted Seas

Posted: Fri 28 Sep, 2007 17:09:03
by Stevie P
The story starts when the 'Gafelborg', a Swedish cargo vessel of 3,600 tons carrying 20 cabin class passengers becomes caught in a hurricane when only 7 days out from Cape Town, bound for Rio de Janeiro.
The captain is a Frenchman - Jean de Brissac; his second engineer is a Finn - Juhani luvia.
The remainder are a weird mixture of personalities who have taken the 'economy cruise' to South America.
They include 2 nuns; Basil Sutherland - an Englishman who had money and now has only alcohol; Colonel Carden and his daughter Utility; Synolda Ortello - a South African of British extraction - reminiscent of a shop soiled Marlene Dietrich who lives in Rio with her Spanish husband; Senor Vicente Vedras - a Venezuelan crew member who, unbeknown to Synolda has knowledge of her innermost secret and uses it to his advantage; Jansen - a Swede, the ships carpenter; Hansie - a Swede - the ships steward; Bremer, Steffens, Largertof - Swedish crew members; Gietto Nudaa - a half caste seaman, Harlem Joe, Lem Williamson, Isaiah Meek and Corncob - 4 negro stokers and finally Li Foo - the Chinese cook.

The hurricane causes severe damage to the 'Gafelborg' including a tear in the hull and the decision is taken to abandon ship and get into the lifeboat. With very little in the way of rations and a blazing sun during the day the members start to experience numerous problems until they become weak, ill and in certain circumstances, dead!! However after a few days they sight a ship in the distance and after much hard rowing manage to get alongside the ship which turns out to be the 'Gafelborg' which didn't sink as they thought it would.
They ingeniously repair the hole in the ship and continue on their way when they become entangled in some very strong seaweed from which the ship cannot escape. The seaweed takes them further into its ever moving hold and towards a number of small Islands in the centre of the weed. There are large cliffs as well as some fertile land on the Islands. Numerous shipwrecks (ancient and new) that have been caught up in the weed lie rotting around them and the crew presume that the Gafelborg will end up the same way.
Movement is sighted on one of the islands and a whole new adventure takes place for the crew and the inhabitants of the islands which involve one island of white people who seem to be living a well ordered life and another island of negroes who are the 'Baddies' and occasionally attack the whites and steal their women!!
It is all extremely racist as with many of DW's former books.
Basically the 'Gafelborg' crew members get embroiled in a battle assisting the whites against the Blacks and a subsequent escape ensues over a mountainous barrier (by the crew) takes place reminiscent of the mountain climb in 'The Fabulous Valley'. On the other side of the barrier they discover oil being spewed out of the rock face which has caused the weed to die off leaving a channel for the crew to escape back to the open sea.

I made a point of watching the DVD of 'The Lost Continent' in order to compare the book to the film.
The film opens with The Peddlers singing 'The lost Continent' (Do you remember them? I saw the Peddlers in concert twice - my Dad was a big fan)????. I digress.
The first half of the film has reasonable connections with DW's book i.e. Abandon ship, into the lifeboat,
return to the ship and getting caught in the Weed. However, one of the major differences is that the film changes all of the characters names with the exception of Unity, and even she becomes Unity Webster rather than Unity Carden. Basil Sutherland becomes Mr Harry Tyler, Synolda Ortello becomes Eva Peters, Captain Jean de Brissac becomes Captain Lansen, Hansie becomes Pat etc.

An addition to the film is that the ship (which has also been renamed the 'Dorita') has a cargo of illegal phosphate B onboard which would explode upon contact with water. So when the hurricane hits they have to start shifting the cargo to dryer areas to avoid a disaster.
When the ship eventually arrives at the island, the seaweed turns out to be a malevolent man-attacking weed. The Captain is attacked by it and one crew member falls overboard and engulfed by it.
The story then totally deviates from the original to a scene where young boy is giving judgement for a mans execution by being thrown into what looks like a large green and red car wash wheel cleaning brush!! The boy has been given the name of 'El Supremo' and is the ruler over a group of supposed religious fanatics who are dressed in clothes and armour from the old Spanish Galleons in which they all seem to inhabit and a priest dressed in a grey Klu Klux Klan outfit. Its all quite amusing really.
The crew save a young woman islander who is being chased by the soldiers of El Supremo. Several soldiers are killed. The inevitable battle continues when the 'Gafelborg' crew pay a visit to the galleon whilst a demented Spanish priest plays the organ as the galleon goes up in flames. The 'Gafelborg' group are finally victorious when they throw the Phosphate B drums onto the galleon. This subsequently sets the weed alight and creates a pathway in the water for the 'Gafelborg' and crew escape.
At this point The Peddlers start singing the closing ode.

A few points I picked up on were;

Page 17 (Worlds far from here). (Debroussac) stroked his small D'Artagnan moustache. A reference to DW's favourite author (Dumas).

Page 41 DW's racist term for Negroes starts here and continues throughout the book.

Page 82 DW expresses his annoyance at the Generals who were incompetent during World War 1. This is a continuing theme from his previous book - Red Eagle.

Page 137 "He would he hard at it ". Just one of the numerous printing errors that abound in the earlier books. I bet they wished they had spellchecker.

Page 152 Unity has Grey eyes. ( As does at least one member of all DW's books- or so it seems).

Page 164 Knobkerries? Not a rude word but a bludgeoning weapon . (also used in 'The Fabulous Valley')

Page 148 A giant squid attacks some of the crew whilst they are trying to free the propellers from the weed
Page 149 The squid kills one of the crew members.
Page 150 The squid is killed by a crew riflemen.
Page 151 Basil and Unity decide to have a game of Table Tennis??? They recover fast, these English!!!!

Page 233 They'll be keen to see this Hick Dorp. (Any help would be appreciated on what this is!!!!!)

Page 281 A reference to Mealies. ?????

I really liked one of the early scenes in the film when the Colonel is sat in the lounge of the ship reading an Arrow paperback copy of 'Uncharted seas'.

The film is generally quite dated and at times amateurish but it is interesting when you compare a 1930's book against a 1960's film particularly when we are 40 years further on from when the film was made.

Lastly - There are no negroes in the film at all. I think the racism in the book must have worried the director to death and so that's why the second half of the film differs so much.

Posted: Fri 28 Sep, 2007 23:07:27
by Garry Holmes
I recall reading Wheatley's letter to Hammer films upon receoving the script. I can't remember the exact words, but it went something like 'Thanks for the script of your adaption of my book. At least, I assume that it was supposed to be my book......'

Posted: Mon 1 Oct, 2007 00:32:13
by Steve Whatley
I think I mentioned this to Bob Rothwell a couple of years ago.... did anyone notice quite early in the film version, during the scene in the ship's bar, one of the characters was reading a (paperback, I think) copy of a Dennis Wheatley? Can't remember if I could read the title, but presumably it was Uncharted Seas. A nice touch, I thought.

Re: Uncharted Seas

Posted: Mon 1 Oct, 2007 23:34:32
by Hoyo de Monterrey
Stevie P wrote:
Page 233 TheyÂ’ll be keen to see this Hick Dorp. (Any help would be appreciated on what this is!!!!!)
Hick= American term for a yokel or simple countryman; dorp= Dutch/Afrikaans word for village. "Hick dorp" = one-horse town, insignificant village etc.
Stevie P wrote: Page 281 A reference to Mealies. ?????
A South African word for maize.

Hope this helps.

Posted: Tue 2 Oct, 2007 04:39:48
by Jim
I checked my DVD last night. The doctor is reading the 1965 Arrow edition of UNCHARTED SEAS. In 1968, they issued a new edition with the film title on the cover as well...

Posted: Thu 4 Oct, 2007 11:49:24
by Stevie P

Thanks very much for the translations. I'm reading The Golden Spaniard at the moment. How's your spanish?? :)

Posted: Thu 4 Oct, 2007 12:13:12
by Toohey
I got up to Chapter 5 of the Lymington edition before giving up...I know that the past is a foreign country etc and i've no problem with reading books that aren't PC, hell I love Tintin! Just that this one got the better of me, I couldn't stomach it. The terms used and the portrayal of the black characters. I'm in no way implying that you have to be rascist to read this book! That would be crazy and offensive :shock: . Just a personal thing.

I loved the cover though on the edition I borrowed a giant(?) jade green crab behind a pile of skulls! Plus one in each claw. Mental.

Posted: Thu 4 Oct, 2007 22:59:24
by Hoyo de Monterrey
Stevie P wrote:Hoyo,

Thanks very much for the translations. I'm reading The Golden Spaniard at the moment. How's your spanish?? :)
"Dos cervezas por favor - mi amigo paiga"*

That's about it!

* "Two beers, please - my friend will pay"