Tintin and the Mystery of the Golden Fleece (1961)

aka Tintin et le mystère de la Toison d’Or

2013 #46
Jean-Jacques Vierne | 97 mins | TV | 1.66:1 | France & Belgium / English | PG

Tintin and the Mystery of the Golden FleeceSteven Spielberg and Peter Jackson weren’t the first to bring Hergé’s journalist-adventurer to the big screen, oh no… though you have to go quite far back — and much more obscure — to find the previous efforts.

The Mystery of the Golden Fleece was the first of two live-action Tintin movies made by the French in the ’60s. It seems quite a low-budget affair, but that might just be applying modern tastes to an era of more simple means. For all the flat direction and pound-store costumes, there’s still a globetrotting plot involving sunken ships, numerous chases, helicopters, and that kind of thing. Some bits drag a smidgen for a modern viewer, but mostly it moves at a decent enough lick, as Tintin and co trot around Greece, Turkey and the like in pursuit of / being pursued by a gang of criminals who are interested in the boat Captain Haddock has just inherited, the titular la Toison d’Or. This isn’t quite a Bondian adventure, though its child-audience aims lend a certain charm and innocence that will certainly appeal to the right audience.

Indeed, this is exactly the kind of film I can see gaining a cult following, if it doesn’t have one already. Even for the occasional points of clunkiness, it offers some genuine humour and some old-fashioned derring-do that’s never less than good fun. Plus there’s the bizarre sight of seeing characters costumed and made-up to faithfully recreate their comic-book counterparts plonked in the middle of the very-real world. If you’ve ever been to a Disney theme park, imagine some of the characters they have scattered around wandering out onto the streets. There’s a double bonus for English-language viewers, thanks to a stereotypically iffy English dub that only adds to the fun.Tintin via Disneyland (I don’t know if the BFI DVD includes the original French, Turkish and Greek soundtrack, but on TV it was entirely dubbed into English. There’s a French Blu-ray, but it doesn’t look to be English friendly.)

And then there’s Snowy. Regular readers will know I can go a bit soppy for a great dog in a film, and Golden Fleece offers a Snowy who should be up there with the likes of Uggie in the annals of movie-dog history. He steals most scenes he’s in, and of course he’s in it a fair bit.

I wouldn’t say Tintin and the Mystery of the Golden Fleece is a bad movie by any means, but it’s not going to work for everyone. Some would find it dated and twee and, if forced to watch it, would despise every moment of the experience. I really enjoyed it, however; in a slightly ironic way, I suppose, looking back on simpler times of cut-price production design and funny dubbing; but also as a well-intentioned adventure movie, in the old-fashioned meaning of that genre that doesn’t involve a millions-of-dollars action sequence every seven minutes.

If it isn’t a cult favourite yet, I may just have to start that cult. And I think we’d probably give it an extra star, but in the interests of broad consumer advice:

3 out of 5

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