Fair Wind to Java


1h 32m 1953

Brief Synopsis

The Dutch East Indies, at the end of the nineteenth century. An adventurous captain of an American merchant vessel is looking for a sunken Dutch vessel containing 10,000 precious diamonds. Unfortunately, he's not the only one and then there's also that volcano on the nearby island of Krakatau, waiting to explode in its historical, disastrous eruption...

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Release Date
Apr 28, 1953
Premiere Information
World premiere in Miami and Miami Beach: 28 Jan 1953
Production Company
Republic Pictures Corp.
Distribution Company
Republic Pictures Corp.
Country
United States
Location
Hilo, Hawaii, United States; Malibu--Point Dume, California, United States; Indonesia
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Fair Wind to Java by Garland Roark (Garden City, New York, 1948).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 32m
Sound
Mono (RCA Sound System)
Color
Color (Trucolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1

Synopsis

In 1883, Captain Boll, who commands the full-rigged sailing ship Gerrymander for a Boston company in the Dutch East Indies, is given six months to show a profit, in spite of a trade exclusion policy and pirates. In Soerabaja, an Indonesian whose life Boll once saved reveals that legendary diamonds from the sunken ship Pieterzoon were salvaged by native divers, and Boll is directed to a Chinese junk captain who has "cargo" that will lead him to the diamonds. The "cargo," Boll discovers, is a woman named Kim Kim, a dancer from the sultan's palace who was taken as a slave by the Chinese. Boll buys her and smuggles her onto his ship, risking slavery charges when his first mate, Flint, discovers her and blackmails him for half of the fortune. Also aware of Kim Kim's presence is a naturalized Dutch citizen known as "Saint" Ebenezer, who is really the pirate Pulo Besar. As Ebenezer, Besar tips off the Dutch authorities about Kim Kim, but hidden in a half-filled vat of water, Kim Kim is not discovered by the Dutch during their search. When the crew finds her later, Boll, certain that she will somehow lead them to the diamonds, insists that she be treated well, but must fight the sailor Reeder to enforce her safety. At first Kim Kim is angered by Boll's continual questioning about the diamonds, but when he confesses to her his struggle with poverty and hope to buy his own ship, she warms to him, and tells him about the island of the fire god, Vishnu, where she used to go as a child. Meanwhile, Flint organizes a mutiny by claiming Boll has become unbalanced by the presence of the woman on board, but when confronted, Boll averts the crisis by offering the crew members Flint's half of the fortune, and Flint is imprisoned. As they sail in the direction of Vishnu's island, Kim Kim becomes afraid that Boll's pursuit of the diamonds will anger Vishnu. Boll is distracted by his attraction to Kim Kim, and Besar and his pirates get close enough that they successfully attack the Gerrymander . The crew is escorted to Besar's island, which contains his exquisite palace with servants and dancing girls. Boll is imprisoned separately from his men, and Kim Kim is beaten for information about the diamonds. Because she wants the diamonds for Boll, she refuses to tell what she knows, even after she is shown her mother, Bintang, who has been broken by torture and captivity. Accepting that physical abuse failed with Bintang, Besar tries a different approach with Kim Kim: he promises to spare Boll if she helps him find the diamonds. When she agrees, Besar takes her with Flint and two other sailors who have agreed to cooperate, toward Vishnu's island. Meanwhile, the crew of the Gerrymander escape from their guards and free Boll. After a struggle, they overtake the Gerrymander and follow Besar. Guessing that Besar will try to lose them during the moonless night, Boll and two men ride ahead of the Gerrymander in a longboat, sending directional signals back to the Gerrymander . Then Wilson, one of the sailors with Besar, sneaks off the ship and swims to Boll after overhearing where Besar is heading. Their map identifies the island as Krakatau, and by morning, the ships have approached the volcanic, fire-spewing island. Despite their uneasiness, both groups race up the mountain toward the temple at the mouth of the volcano. Boll spots Kim Kim on the shore below, and when lava begins to slide down the mountain and the volcano's fury increases, Boll and his crew return to the ship with Kim Kim and sail away. Realizing that the impending eruption will cause huge tidal waves, Boll orders his men to set the sea anchor and turn the ship toward the island. Soon Besar and his men also give up the diamond quest and when the volcano blows, Besar tries to outrun the wave, but his ship overturns, and he and his crew drown. The Gerrymander and its crew survive because of Boll's clever seamanship, and though they were unable to retrieve the Pieterzoon diamonds, Boll tells his crew that there is a 100,000 guilder bounty for the pirate Besar, which they will earn by handing over Besar's island to the Dutch authorities. While his crew is assembled, Boll marries himself to Kim Kim.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Release Date
Apr 28, 1953
Premiere Information
World premiere in Miami and Miami Beach: 28 Jan 1953
Production Company
Republic Pictures Corp.
Distribution Company
Republic Pictures Corp.
Country
United States
Location
Hilo, Hawaii, United States; Malibu--Point Dume, California, United States; Indonesia
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Fair Wind to Java by Garland Roark (Garden City, New York, 1948).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 32m
Sound
Mono (RCA Sound System)
Color
Color (Trucolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

Following the success of Wake of the Red Witch, an adaptation of Garland Roark's novel of the same name (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50), Republic president Herbert J. Yates bought Roark's 1948 novel Fair Wind to Java, another seafaring adventure set in Indonesia. Although a March 1949 Hollywood Reporter news item states that John K. Butler was originally assigned to adapt the novel, war correspondent Richard Tregaskis was given the task of writing the screenplay following his return from Indonesia, according to a March 1951 Hollywood Reporter news item. The contribution of Butler has not been determined.
       A voice-over narration at the beginning of the film describes the impact of the volcano Krakatoa, and sets the story's action three weeks before the eruption. The actual volcanic island of Krakatoa, also known as Krakatau or Rakata, exists in the Sunda Strait between Java and Sumatra, as described in the film. The eruption, which began on the evening of August 26, 1883, destroyed over half of the island and caused fifty-foot-high tidal waves, which drowned the inhabitants of nearby islands. The explosion was heard 3,000 miles away, and for three years, people all over the world saw volcanic ash dusting the sunsets.
       John Wayne, who starred in Wake of the Red Witch, was originally considered for the lead of Fair Wind to Java, according to March 1949 and March 1951 Hollywood Reporter news items. Background shots were filmed in Hilo, Hawaii by photographer Bud Thackery's camera crew, which included his assistant Al Edens, according to June 1952 Hollywood Reporter news items. According to a modern source, Howard Lydecker, who was pursuing side interests away from Republic's special effects department, which he jointly headed with his brother Theodore, also was a member of Thackery's crew. Portions of the film were also shot on location at Point Dume in Malibu, CA. A lagoon and volcano were built on the Republic backlot, according to a modern source.
       Although an April 1951 Hollywood Reporter news item stated there were plans to shoot on location in Indonesia, it has not been determined that shooting actually took place there. According to a July 1952 Hollywood Reporter news item, twenty-five stunt men were used in the pirate fight sequence. Contemporary Republic publicity materials stated that Fair Wind to Java cost over $2,000,000 to produce. Another film on the subject of Krakatoa is the 1968 Cinerama production of Krakatoa, East of Java, directed by Bernard Kowalski and starring Maximilian Schell, Diane Baker and Brian Keith (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1961-70).

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States April 28, 1953

Released in United States Spring April 28, 1953

c Trucolor

Released in United States April 28, 1953

Released in United States Spring April 28, 1953