Following the death of his father, young Davy Balfour (James MacArthur) makes his way to his uncle Ebenezer's (John Laurie) house to lay claim to his inheritance and quickly realises that Ebenezer is a no good schemer who is willing to kill him to protect the lies his fortune is built upon. When that fails David ends up tricked aboard a ship and sold as a slave, destined for the colonies. But on the way he meets and befriends Alan Breck (Peter Finch) who is a Jacobite escaping following the defeat at Culloden. When the ship's captain plans to kill Alan and steal his money David warns him and together they escape, setting out for Edinburgh, avoiding capture from Redcoats and on a quest to get David what is rightfully his.
Up until now my only experience of "Kidnapped" was the notorious 70s version, notorious because many of the actors gave up being paid in order to complete the rather under-whelming movie. Or at least that is what I thought because as I sat down to watch the 1959 Walt Disney version of "Kidnapped" plenty of it ended up familiar from James MacArthur's young Davy to John Laurie bringing plenty of Ebenezer to the role of Davy's treacherous uncle. Yet whilst much of it was familiar I couldn't remember it all.
Now I am no expert on the Robert Louis Stevenson's classic 1886 novel "Kidnapped" which this is adapted from but I can say that director and screenwriter Robert Stevenson has done a good job of making this adventure work as a piece of family entertainment. At 97 minutes the movie briskly works its way through the story, never rushing but never feeling like it is dawdling so we get to understand things such as Uncle Ebenezer's treachery but it never drags on to over indulge in unwarranted back story. And so instead what you get are the moments of drama focused upon so we see Ebenezer's attempt to cause Davy's death and the swashbuckling battle aboard the ship.
What Robert Stevenson has also done is delivered the look with a nice blend of location shoots and studio sets to create what now is typical of the late 1950s era. There is this sort of mix to it so you will have the gloom of a candle lit cabin yet the clothes have a slight vibrancy to them so they stand out. It is a look which contributes to make the acting memorable and as such James MacArthur alongside Peter Finch deliver entertaining performances.
What this all boils down to is that in many ways this 1959 version of "Kidnapped" is a fine example of a childhood adventure movie which even now has the right mix of action and drama to keep audiences entertained. And compared to the later 70's version of the story this is in a completely different league.