Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Pandora and the Flying Dutchman (1951, UK)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Pandora and the Flying Dutchman (1951, UK)

In writer/director Albert Lewin's romantic-fantasy drama, suggested by the 17th century Flying Dutchman ghost-ship legend, that featured fantastic Technicolored cinematography by Jack Cardiff:

  • the film's prologue: "According to the legend, the Flying Dutchman was condemned to wander the seas eternally unless he could find a woman who loved him enough to die for him"
  • the story opened at the seaport town (fictitious) of Esperanza on Spain's Mediterranean coast, about 20 years earlier; fishermen dragged up in their nets the corpses of a male and female and a copy of Omar Khayyám's book Rubaiyat; the town's residential archaeologist Geoffrey Fielding (Harold Warrender) and his niece Janet (Sheila Sim) were summoned to the beach from their villa by a pealing bell; land-speed race-car driver Stephen Cameron (Nigel Patrick) was stunned by the sight of the bodies and was comforted by Janet
  • the film's flashbacked story was narrated (in voice-over) by Geoffrey as he was struggling to translate a handwritten manuscript written by the legendary Flying Dutchman; he was distracted by a gypsy singing in the nearby tavern of The Two Turtles
  • the scene shifted back in time to the year 1930 - in a local tavern, a group of British expatriates was introduced, including alluring American femme fatale Pandora Reynolds (Ava Gardner) - a nightclub singer, and two of Pandora's admirers: alcoholic, love-sick, and suicidal Reggie Demarest (Marius Goring), and Stephen Cameron; with dramatic flourish in front of everyone, the self-destructive Reggie poisoned his own drink and fell dead at her feet; he had deliberately killed himself to usher in his "exit" from life; later, Pandora claimed she was relieved since he had many times threatened to take his life

Reggie Demarest (Marius Goring)

Stephen Cameron (Nigel Patrick)
Two of Pandora's Admirers
  • that same evening, after a thrilling, open-air, cliff-side drive on a winding road in Stephen's prized race-car (named Pandora), Pandora promised to marry him on September 3rd (a reversal of the day's date - the ninth day of the third month), but he first had to prove his love (after he told her: "I would do anything") by pushing his "precious" automobile from a cliff into the sea; he obeyed her ("Do it, Stephen") and destroyed his vehicle
  • Geoffrey drove up to the couple and expressed how astounded he was by Stephen's "magnificent" declaration of love for Pandora: "The measure of love is what one is willing to give up for it"
  • Pandora had spotted a "strange yacht" anchored in the bay, possibly helmed by the legendary "Flying Dutchman' - she learned from Geoffrey that "the flying dutchman is allowed to land once in seven years to look for the woman who can redeem him (from)...his curse. He's doomed to wander the sea until judgment day as Captain of a ghost ship, unless if he can find a woman who loves him enough to die for it..."; Pandora compared Stephen's destructive act of love to the love of the woman the Dutchman was looking for: ("Now, that's a measure of love even greater than yours, Stephen. You gave your car, but she has to give up her life")
  • when they returned to the beachside, the curious Pandora kept eyeing the mysterious yacht in the bay; drawn to the yacht, she tossed off her clothes onto the beach and swam out to the boat, where she called out for someone to answer
  • on-board, she found a solitary individual - handsome yet melancholy Dutch sea captain Hendrik van der Zee (James Mason) painting a picture of her as Pandora; he seemed to have anticipated her arrival, and she told him: "I could've posed for this painting...Do you mean to tell me that it isn't the most fantastic coincidence imaginable that you have painted the likeness of a woman you've never seen?"; he replied with details of her legendary mythology: "Still more remarkable that I painted her as Pandora, darling of the gods. They gave her the precious box which she was forbidden to open"; she posed for him so he could finish his painting

The Captain's Yacht in the Harbor

Pandora's Clothes Left on the Beach

After Swimming Out to the Boat - Calling Out
  • she reacted to the painting: "It's not me as I am at all, but it's what I'd like to be. Why am I not like that?" - he suggested she might be unfulfilled or discontented ("And discontent appeases itself by fury and destruction"); to appease herself, she defaced the painting, but he did not react with anger ("I was angry once, long ago. I could never be angry again")
  • surprisingly, he congratulated her for contributing to the painting's authenticity: "Pandora was the first woman on the Eve of Greek legend whose curiosity cost us our earthly paradise. I was wrong to portray her as a particular woman, no matter how beautiful. Pandora should appear as woman in the abstract, bride and mother, the original and generic egghead from which we can imagine the whole human race to have been hatched. By a sheer chance you have contributed the unexpected element which my painting needed. And naturally as Pandora"; he suggested that she could be his muse - "an extraordinary model, who may inspire me to paint in the face and form of Pandora Reynolds, the secret goddess whom all men in their hearts desire"
  • Pandora was retrieved by Geoffrey and Stephen on a boat, who were then introduced to the Dutchman; he was invited to have dinner the next evening at Hotel Isabella with the other expatriates; meanwhile, after meeting a second rival suitor, Pandora regretted the sacrifice she'd required of Stephen, and allowed him to salvage and repair his race-car
  • the Dutchman moved into a garden cottage at the hotel, and became part of the "circle" of friends with Geoffrey while falling in love with Pandora; a few months later, he helped Geoffrey to translate the contents of a notebook written in the 17th century in Old Dutch by the "doomed man" himself; the legendary "death-ship" story in the manuscript confirmed that the Flying Dutchman tale was being acted out by the sea captain
"Flying Dutchman" Manuscript Tale Visually Re-enacted

Hendrik as 'Flying Dutchman'

Pandora as Hendrik's Murdered Wife

The Murder Weapon

Trial For Murder

Prison Cell Door Open

A Dream About Searching for His Pandora ("She must be willing to die for me")
  • in the tale expertly visualized in the film, a 16th-century ship captain murdered his unfaithful wife by stabbing her in bed; then, he cursed and rejected God during his murder trial ("Faith is a lie and God himself is chaos"), but narrowly escaped execution by hanging when the door of his dungeon prison cell was mysteriously opened; upon returning to his ship anchored in the bay, he experienced a "dreadful dream" that he had wrongly murdered his truly-innocent wife ("My wife had not been faithless"); he momentarily considered committing suicide, and then learned that his unending burden and punishment-curse was to have "immortal life" and eternally roam the open seas with a "ghostly crew" until he found a woman who would sacrifice herself for him: ("She must be willing to die for me"); for six months every 7 years, he was allowed to go ashore to search for the elusive female, so that he might learn the meaning of love: ("I might live as a mortal man among mortal men"); Hendrik believed that Pandora Reynolds was the reincarnation of his beloved wife
  • a love triangle developed between the many suitors for Pandora's love: her ex-lover - the town's heroic bullfighting matador Juanito Montalvo (Mario Cabré) (the son of a gypsy mother in Esperanza) who lived in Madrid, her fiancee Stephen whom she was preparing to marry in one month, and sea-captain Hendrik; at the same time, Janet (who loved Stephen from afar) accused Pandora of genuinely not loving him, and accused her of being dishonest, deceptive, and treacherous: ("Why don't you give Stephen up? You don't love him. You've never loved him")
The Love Triangle



  • on the beach at a celebration following Stephen's record-breaking race, Pandora declared her true love for the sea-captain after they kissed: ("I feel as if I'd love you always, not only in this life, but in lives I've lived before and do not remember...No one else exists for me, no one ever will...I'd die for you without the least hesitation...I'd give up my life for you. That's the measure of my love"), but Hendrik refused to have her die for his sake; he intentionally kept his emotions remote and distant, and attempted to provoke her into not loving him, and she realized he had pushed her away: ("You've gone away from me somehow"); he retreated to his yacht as she prepared to be married to Stephen
Hendrik and Pandora Kissing on the Beach - She Vowed She Would Die For Him, But He Refused to Have Her Die For His Sake
  • one week before Pandora's marriage, the jealous, violence-prone and infatuated matador Juan forcefully proposed to marry Pandora instead of Stephen ("You will not marry this Stephen"), but she refused, with hints that it wouldn't help to eliminate Stephen, because she also loved someone else
  • in order to possess Pandora - knowing that her heart was set on the Dutch sea-captain, Montalvo approached when Hendrik entered his cabana at the hotel at midnight; he hurled a knife into Hendrik's back to kill him, but didn't realize that the curse prevented Hendrik from dying; Hendrik only told Pandora that someone had killed the little terrier dog she had given him, but she was confused
  • during his next day's bullfight in the Madrid arena, Montalvo was lethally distracted when Hendrik appeared alive in the stands; he was so stunned that he turned away from the bull and was gored; before he died, Montalvo confessed to Pandora that he had received "God's punishment" for murdering his romantic rival, but she didn't fully understand
  • Pandora spoke with Geoffrey on the eve of her wedding to Stephen, expressing how bewildered she was that Hendrik was still alive ("He was killed and he came back to life"); Geoffrey suggested it was because Montalvo was delirious before he died; to help Pandora understand the "truth" about Hendrik, he offered her the translated manuscript to read by herself, noting: "It's his story. Yours too, in a way"
  • as Hendrik prepared to sail away (the period of his six months' stay was ending), Pandora again decided to swim out to his ship to join him; both realized that fate and destiny had brought them together again - and that she looked exactly like his murdered wife in the painting and in a portrait; she exclaimed: "When I came here for the first time, we weren't strangers"; he concurred: "We were man and wife separated for centuries and meeting again. The moment I saw you, I knew it. You'd come back to me"; she agreed: "I think I knew it too"
Pandora Returning to Hendrik's Ship - Man and Wife Reunited
  • Pandora vowed her dying love for him (and that she was happy and not afraid to die), and they embraced and kissed, thus freeing Hendrik from his immortal curse and inaugurating the start of their timeless and unending love
  • the film ended with a fiercely destructive storm that sank their ship; the two lovers were found entwined in a net on the beach in each other's arms - the conclusion of the flashback and a return to the film's opening

Two Corpses in Fishing Net

Archaeologist Geoffrey Fielding (Harold Warrender)

Geoffrey's Niece Janet (Sheila Sim)

Pandora Reynolds (Ava Gardner)

Stephen Dared to Demonstrate His Love for Pandora by Destroying His Race Car ("I would do anything")

Pandora Promising to Marry Stephen After He Eliminated His Car as a Rival to Her Love

Dutch Captain Hendrik van der Zee (James Mason)

Hendrik with Pandora

Painting of Pandora

Pandora Posing for the Captain

The Revised Painting

Hendrik Helping Geoffrey to Translate and Read the "Flying Dutchman's" Manuscript

Pandora - an Incarnation of Hendrik's Long Lost Beloved Wife

Pandora with Ex-Lover: Bullfighting Matador Juan Montalvo (Mario Cabré)

Bullfighter Showing Off Skills

Stephen Racing to Break Speed Record - at 247 mph

A Week Before the Wedding - Pandora's Marital Gown

Hendrik 'Murdered' by Montalvo

Montalvo Gored to Death in Bullfighting Ring

Montalvo Confessing to Pandora His 'Murder' of Hendrik Before Dying

Together Again - Pandora and her Flying Dutchman


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