Tintin and the Mystery of the Golden Fleece / Tintin and the Blue Oranges Blu-ray Review

The iconic Belgian comic book character has been translated into many forms of media over the years, and now two of his earliest feature film adaptations have arrived on Blu-ray. Although they share the same lead actor and a penchant for buffoonish antics, they have very little else in common, especially overall quality. While Golden Fleece (1961) is a polished adventure film well worth restoration and preservation, Blue Oranges (1964) is a comparative disappointment.

In Golden Fleece, Tintin’s partner, Captain Haddock, inherits a derelict old boat and sets out on a treasure hunt in search of rumored gold. That hunt takes the pair to exquisite locations around the port of Istanbul, Turkey, and the cliff-hugging monasteries of Meteora, Greece. With the exotic settings and the ever-present danger of gun-toting bad guys racing them for the gold, the film feels like a James Bond adventure for children. 

In Blue Oranges, their other partner, Professor Calculus, receives a mysterious blue orange in the mail, setting them off to Spain to determine its origins and its potential to solve the worldwide hunger crisis. Sadly, wide swathes of screen time are devoted to the pratfalling antics of Haddock and Calculus, totally derailing any plot in service of cheap laughs for tots. Tintin is largely left to look on in bemusement as his idiotic compatriots act like fools.

Jean-Pierre Talbot was a Belgian teen plucked out of obscurity to star in these films, and he proves to be the most convincing actor in his casts of veterans. Really, it’s as if they designed him in a lab to grow up to be a wholly convincing Tintin, resulting in him being so closely identified with the character that he never acted in another feature film. He’s a delight to watch, equally adept at keeping the cartoonish antics of his co-stars rooted in reality and busting up baddies in frequent action scenes.

Unfortunately, Talbot is saddled with co-stars that color well outside the lines of the original comic book characterizations. Both Captain Haddocks are blustery buffoons, with the first at least exhibiting Haddock’s large physical girth but overplaying his reactions at every turn, and the second a touch more subdued but a great deal more svelte. Both Calculses are doddering old fools in bad wigs, adding nothing but wasted screen time. If only the directors and writers had kept in mind that the IP is called Tintin, not Haddock or Calculus, they may have backed off on pandering to the youngest child audiences. As it stands, the fact that Golden Fleece works at all is a testament to its superior production design and thrilling story, while the flailing and greatly diminished Blue Oranges seems like an inevitability, shoddily assembled on the bones of its predecessor’s already wobbly house of cards.

Both films are presented in 2.0 DTS mono in French with English subtitles. The only bonus feature is one optional commentary track. Golden Fleece is resplendent, dazzling viewers with richly-saturated hues seemingly remastered for the HDR era. Blue Oranges is not, featuring dull tones exacerbated by blurry photography and its drab, dusty principal location amongst the faded architecture of Valencia, Spain. Even the character attire marks the change between films, with the practically glowing, baby blue tops of Tintin and Haddock being replaced by unflattering yellow tops for Tintin and a dingy, darker blue sweater for Haddock in the sequel.

The first film benefits from superior production all the way around, and seems to have been further aided by top-notch restoration and remastering. The second is just a mess, and hasn’t been helped out much for this new release, marking it as an also-ran only included for completionists.

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Steve Geise

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