The Devil-Ship Pirates

The Devil-Ship Pirates is a 1964 British pirate adventure film directed by Don Sharp.

The Devil-Ship Pirates
UK theatrical poster
Directed byDon Sharp
Produced byAnthony Nelson Keys
StarringChristopher Lee
John Cairney
Barry Warren
Andrew Keir
Philip Latham
Music byGary Hughes
CinematographyMichael Reed
Edited byJames Needs
Distributed byWarner-Pathé Distributors (UK)
Columbia Pictures (US)
Release date
May 1964
Running time
86 min
CountryUnited Kingdom

It concerned pirates from a vessel from the defeated Spanish Armada terrorizing citizens on the English coast. All goes well until the villagers realize the Spaniards have been defeated and revolt.

Plot summary

A pirate ship, involved in 1588 battles on the side of the Spanish Armada, suffers extensive damage and must put into a village on the British coast for repairs. The village is small and isolated and the Spanish convince the villagers that the English fleet has been defeated and that they, the Spanish, are now their masters. This results in the villagers' sullen cooperation, but rumours and unrest begin to spread and soon the Spanish pirates find themselves facing a revolt.



Don Sharp had directed Kiss of the Vampire for Hammer and was invited back to work at the studio by Tony Hinds. Sharp says the film was aimed at the school holiday market so it needed to have a "U" certificate. "But they wanted it to look like a X film. So we had an action film with kids in it," said Sharp.[1]

Sharp had seen several of Christopher Lee's films "and I was worried about a range I saw as playing down one line. But right from out first meeting we got on and when we talked it was two actors talking. We'd explore his character and I found myself suggesting depths to Captain Roebles that I hadn't expected I'd be able to."[2]

Filming began in August 1963. Sharp did not get along particularly well with Anthony Nelson Keys who he called "a general manager type and any idea he had was most obvious".[3]

The outdoor sets were previously utilised for Hammer's The Scarlet Blade, made the previous year. Ripper, Lamont and Farmer appeared in both films.

According to Christopher Lee, Hammer Studios had built a full-sized galleon in some sand pits on a steel structure under the water. Although warned not to have too many people on board at once, one day the tea boat was lifted onto a platform level with the water and too many people rushed over to get a cup of tea. The ship capsized, throwing most of the cast and crew in the water. Lee was on the poop deck and luckily managed to hold on to the rail. No one was drowned or seriously hurt.[4][5]


The Devil-Ship Pirates is a "lacklustre pirate yarn with not much action and some elements of Hammer horror" according to Halliwell's Film and Video Guide.[6] Richard Harland-Smith it is a "spirited romp", but notes that the film's "diet of floggings, hangings and swordplay pushed its 'U' certificate to the limits."[4]


  1. Koetting p 10
  2. Koetting p 11
  3. Koetting p 10
  4. Yoram Allon, et al (eds.) Contemporary British and Irish Film Directors, London: Wallflower, 2001, p.310
  5. Koetting p 11
  6. John Walker (ed.) Halliwell's Film and Video Guide 2000, London: HarperCollins, 1999, p.222


  • Koetting, Christopher (1995). "Costume Dramas". Hammer Horror.
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