Captain Haddock (Georges Wilson) learns the his old shipmate has passed away and left him his ship, the Golden Fleece. With his old-time friend Belgian reporter Tintin (Jean-Pierre Talbot) and his dog Snowy, they fly to Istanbul to retrieve the ship in the film directed by Jean-Jacques Vierne.
I can see you all looking at this review and thinking “Why, there was a Tintin movie before the Spielberg-directed one and with real actors?” And yes, yes, there were even two films made back in the 60s when Georges Remi, aka Hergé was still alive. He met with Belgian sport instructor Jean-Pierre Talbot, who will end up portraying the famous character, and gave his blessing for the films. I don’t believe Remi was much involved in the development, however, and while the quality of those can be discussed, I think there is still some amusement to be found in watching them. Or maybe it is just the kid in me who’s talking.
The film follow an entirely original plot, while using ideas from the comic books. Keep in mind that new albums were still being published regularly and adaptations at the time had more freedom. The first animated series Hergé’s Adventures of Tintin aired in 1957 and, while roughly following the main plot of adapted comic books, were known to add new characters and plot points. That series is nowhere to be found today, sadly, with the notable exception of the Calculus Affair, the final episode, who was screened in cinemas and got a proper home release later. That lead to two more animated films from the same studio, the latter of which is also an original story. The audience was used to new Tintin adventures, and the Golden Fleece delivered just that. They kept enough references to the comic books so that the audience feels comfortable with actors; Haddock throws cannonball down the stairs to stop enemies reaching them is a direct reference to The Black Island and Thomson and Thompson are in disguise like in Destination Moon.
Yes, Jean-Pierre Talbot feels like the Tintin from the comic books.
But what is the story worth? It is quite good, actually. The plot as some Red Rackham Treasure flavor to it; Tintin and Haddock are on a treasure hunt in Greece and villains are in their way. Yes, it is quite straightforward, but what could you expect from a Tintin film made in the 60s? The film is not that long, about a 100 minutes long and feels fast-paced because the characters don’t stay in the same place for long. Tintin and Haddock fly to Istanbul, then go to Greece to meet and important character, end up in prison, travel Greece to meet two new important characters and finally arrive at their final destination. If you’ve never been to Greece, you’ll be surprised at how much the film delivers. Entirely shot on location, it is filled with nice landscapes like the Meteora. Much of the film focuses on locals and characters travelling in this incredible rich country. The film also has a lot of underwater shots, which seems nothing today but, again, keep in mind that Thunderball was made 3 years later.
The performances are off. Talbot wasn’t an actor and was hired only on his physical resemblance to the young reporter. And on that part, yes, he feels like the Tintin from the comic books. What’s more, as a sport instructor, he did his own stunts on camera. That helped making the story and the character believable. Georges Wilson delivers a good Captain Haddock even though his performance goes over-the-top quite often. But isn’t Captain Haddock an over-the-top character in the first place? Costume design is incredible and for many years I never doubted that those were the characters I got fond of in the comic books.