Nate and Hayes (1983) Review
Nate and Hayes (1983) is an unjustly obscure movie that is in many ways one of the best swashbuckling movies ever made. We get to see Tommy Lee Jones (Capt. "Bully" Hayes) sporting a beard and a white suit that looks like the sort of thing that a lot of 19th century planters wore. The outfit is most fitting given the fact that Hayes is, among other things, a slave trader. Michael O’Keefe, as Nathaniel Williamson, is a Christian missionary set out to convert the heathen of the South Pacific, and Jenny Seagrove plays his wife, Sophie. Veteran character actor Bruce Allpress is Hayes' second in command, Mr. Blake.
However, the best character in the movie is Capt. Ben Pease (portrayed by Australian actor Max Phipps). Pease is the real pirate here, dressed in black with a neat hat. Pease allies with the German empire and its ineffectual naval commander in the Pacific, Count Von Rittenberg (Grant Tilly), in his fight against Hayes. Another of Hayes' opponents is the cannibalistic, human-sacrificing monarch of the South Pacific island of Ponape, played by Prince Tui Teka.
The plot is filled with cliffhangers, and the characters are robust. Jones is compelling as the swashbuckling Hayes, and the gorgeous Seagrove is the damsel in distress we’d all love to rescue from the evil Pease.
This movie was filmed in the South Pacific and Fiji islands, and the majority of actors are local natives of the islands. The most compelling aspect of this flick is the humor its characters pull from the situations and their reactions to it, which lends itself perfectly to a PG-rated film.
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This movie did poor business in theaters, possibly because Nate and Hayes sounds more like a department store than a swashbuckler. The UK title, Savage Islands, summed it up much better. There are rousing action sequences and plenty of good touches, which suggest a lot of care went into the film making. The music is also especially good. Ferdinand Fairfax's direction and John Hughes' script are quite impressive.
Most obscure movies deserve to remain obscure. Nate and Hayes, however, is one obscure flick you really should dust off and check out.
Editor's note: This review originally appeared on OMGN's former sister site FlickZone on Feb. 24, 2005.