Wednesday, December 7, 2011
The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn (1946)
Tintin and Snowy come across a ship being sold. "I say, Snowy, isn't that a fine ship!" Tintin remarks. He wants to buy it for Captain Haddock (price is a quid), and is told "it's a very old... er... very old type of galliard." Tintin bids seventeen and six for it and it is sold to him, but then a bearded man comes on the scene and asks to buy it from Tintin, who refuses to sell it. Then a chubby mustached man tries to buy it from Tintin, and he, too, is rejected. Tintin leaves.
A few minutes later, the bearded man appears at Tintin's place again, still asking to buy the ship, claiming to be a collector of models. The man gives Tintin his card and leaves. Snowy accidentally knocks the ship over, and Tintin fixes it just in time for Haddock's arrival. Haddock is alarmed, asks where Tintin bought the ship, and rushes with Tintin back to his own flat, showing him a portrait of his ancestor Sir Francis Haddock... with a similar-looking ship in the background. In tiny letters it reads: UNICORN. This prompts Tintin to rush back to his place to take another look at the model... only to find it gone.
Looking at the card the bearded man gave him (IVAN IVANOVITCH SAKHARINE; Collector; 21, Eucalyptus Avenue), Tintin visits Sakharine's place, where the man claims he's been "expecting" Tintin. Tintin spots a similkar model on the man's table, but Sakharine claims this is a different model that he's had for 10 years. Tintin checks to see if it has a broken mast like his own model, and, lo and behold, it doesn't.
Leaving Sakharine's place, Tintin tries to phone Haddock (annoyed that a fat lady is in the booth already, but only so she and her dog "Fifi" can stay out of the rain for a quarter of an hour), but Haddock doesn't answer. Tintin returns to find his flat ransacked; did the other man from the market do this? "Burgled twice in one day... Not bad at all!" Tintin complains. Nothing, however, was actually stolen.
The next morning, Thomson and Thompson visit Tintin to pay him back for the sticks, only to realized they've been mugged again. Tintin knows it couldn't have been the burly man from the market because he couldn't have stolen their *new* wallets (which they only bought that morning). Meanwhile, Snowy finds a scroll of parchment under the drawers. It reads:
Three brothers joynes. Three Unicorns in company sailing in the noonday Sunne will speak.
For 'tis from the Light that Light will dawn. And then shines forth.
42 A o 1 ?
the Eagle's t
"But it's all gibberish!" complains Tintin. "And where on earth did this parchment come from, anyway?" Then he realizes it must have fallen under the ship and rolled underneath the drawers when Snowy knocked it over. Tintin deduces that whoever stole the ship must have been after the parchment. Snowy thinks, "Tintin, you're a real Sherlock Holmes!"
Tintin and his landlady are unable to get into Haddock's room, but after some struggle, Haddock comes bursting out dressed like a ship captain, complete with a hat and sword. He seems to be, in Tintin's words, "play-acting", when in fact he's enacting the journeys of his ancestor, Francis Haddock. It seems Haddock has found his ancestor's old manuscripts from the year 1676 (the Unicorn was a vessel of King Charles II's fleet). He goes on to tell a story of Francis' ship being attacked by the pirate ship of Red Rackham. The ship was hijacked, and Francis was tied to the mast while Rackham and his pirates transfer their cargo to the Unicorn (their own ship is sinking). "Regard me well, dog: I am Red Rackham!"
Haddock continues to tell the story to Tintin while Snowy gets drunk on rum ("That's funny! Now there are two glasses!"). In the story, Francis breaks free, fights Rackham down below (while Haddock tells of Francis extinguishing the fuse on some powder kegs, he steps on Snowy's tail, causing Snowy to yelp, "WOOOAH!"). And then Francis kills Rackham -- "That's that! May heaven forgive your wicked soul!" -- before lighting the power kegs again, fleeing to an island and watching the ship blow up.
According to Haddock, Francis lived w/the island natives for the next 2 years and then was carried home by a ship, but left a Will on the last page of his manuscript bequeathing a model to each of his three sons. His manuscript instructs the sons to move the mainmasts on each model: "'Thus,' he concludes, 'the truth will come out.'" To which Tintin exclaims, "That's it, Captain! ...Red Rackham's Treasure will be ours!"
Unfortunately, Tintin's wallet has been stolen, so he has lost his parchment, but he does remember the message. He knows they will need to acquire all three scrolls. They find Sakharine "murdered" at his place, according to a hysterical old lady, when in fact he's only been chloroformed. But his parchment has been stolen, too. Thomson and Thompson arrive and anger Haddock by accusing him of commiting the crime (they claim it's an "experiment" of theirs). While Sakharine wakes up, Thompson is burned by his own magnifying glass, much to Thomson's amusement. Thomson reveals he's developed a system of keeping an "elastic" wallet in his pocket from now on.
Sakharine claims the burly man from the market came to visit him. Tintin and Haddock go back to Tintin's place, where the burly man is awaiting them and tries to go inside w/them before he is shot in a drive-by, croaking to Tintin, "Take care! ...They... they will kill you... too..." Befofre passing out, he points to some sparrows eating crumbs on the sidewalk. It is made to look like murder in the papers, when in fact he is still alive in the hospital and the press has been lied to in order to fool the crooks. That night in the market, the Thomsons are nearly mugged again, but the elastic trap works. However, the thief escapes when Thomson crashes into a street pole. But they do manage to retrieve his coat as well as Tintin's wallet from him. Tintin reminds them they can identify the thief by which cleaners the coat has been to.
At Tintin's place, Tintin encounters some "dinner service" men who chloroform him and stuff him in their crate. Snowy barks at them from the window, falls and lands in Haddock's arms (he just arrived onto the scene), then chases the thieves' van. The landlady is confused, since Snowy is known never to leave his master.
Held prisoner in their hideout and tormented by an unseen voice claiming to be "the ghost of the captain of the Unicorn," Tintin is confused when the voice accuses him of stealing the other two parchments. Tintin never did have more than one. Wanting to get out, Tintin uses a long beam as a battering ram tied to a ceiling ring with blanket sheets (his handkerchief is stuffed in the voicebox to prevent the thieves from hearing), while Snowy meanwhile treks across the road in the rain and mud, bathing in a creek but still getting splashed by more mud along the way.
The battering ram successfully punctures a hole through the brick wall (this is weirdly similar to that Well of Souls scene in Raiders, isn't it? No wonder critics thought Spielberg was a Herge fan at the time -- even though he wasn't!), and hears music on the other side, coming from a music box. On the other side is a bunch of memorabilia. The thieves play cat and mouse with him, but he staves them off by breaking an abacus that spills some balls which they trip over. Locking them in, Tintin finds out from an envelope in the house parlor that it's the estate of one "G. Bird", explaining the meaning of the burly man pointing to the sparrows earlier. It was his way of identifying his attackers, the Bird brothers, a pair of antique dealers.
From the voice box, the thieves alert their butler Nestor to what Tintin is doing, claiming he's "a young ruffian" trespassing. Nestor wrestles with Tintin while he's on the phone w/Haddock informing him he's atMarlinspike Hall. Tintin escapes to the woods, where the thieves release a dog after Tintin that is caught by the leash in some branches. Tripping the thieves, Tintin takes their gun and makes them go back to the house, but Nestor knocks Tintin out from the window with a bat, and the thieves take him hostage. But Snowy appears, bites one of them, and Tintin punches them out. Haddock and the Thomsons arrive, and Tintin tells them to let Nestor go because he is innocent and was lied to by his bosses.
The more dangerous of the two Bird brothers, however, gets away. But they learn from the one they have captive (who decides to talk when they reveal that the burly man, Barnaby, is still alive) that they had found the Unicorn model in the attic of their house 2 years ago. Barnaby was one of their spies, and was the one who ransacked Tintin's place and chloroformed Sakharine, but broke from the Bird brothers after he demanded more money, which provoked the more dangerous brother, Max, to decide to try to have him whacked. Tintin is then told that Max still has Tintin's scroll.
The next morning, Tintin and the Thomsons visit the home of Aristides Silk, the suspected pickpocket, who claims to be a "kleptomaniac" who takes wallets in order to sort them out in alphabetical order. One of them is Max Bird's wallet, which already has two scrolls in it. When the Thomsons finally find Max Bird and arrest him (he had been caught trying to leave the country), it is discovered he has the last scroll in his possession.
When Tintin puts the three parchments together, he discovers that they form a latitude and longitude:
20 37 42 N. 70 52 15 W.
With that, they realize that Rackham's treasure is within their grasp. Haddock says they can charter the SIRIUS, which belongs to his friend Captain Chester.
"But of course it won't be easy," Tintin reminds his readers, "and we shall certainly have plenty of adventures on our treasure-hunt... you can read about them in RED RACKHAM'S TREASURE!"