Set in Cornwall where the young orphan, Mary, is sent to live with Aunt Patience and Uncle Joss who are the landlords of the Jamaica Inn. Mary soon realizes that her uncle's inn is the base of a gang of pirates who lure ships to their doom on the rocky coast. The girl starts fearing for her life.
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With Alfred Hitchcock making the decision to go Hollywood, all that stood in his way from making movies in America was his contract in England. The final movie of Hitch’s English career would be a disappointment. The movie was a costume picture set in the early 19th Century, called Jamaica Inn (1939).
Maureen O’Hara, who would go on to star opposite John Wayne in many Hollywood movies, plays Mary Yellen. Mary has just lost her parents in Ireland and has to move in with her Aunt Patience and Uncle Joss at the Jamaica Inn on the Cornwall coast. Now, Mary appears to be of refined stock, so she is surprised when she meets her aunt and uncle in a dingy inn.
To make matters worse, Uncle Joss is the head of a gang of thieves who divert ships to the sharp rocks on the coast. With the ship sunk, Uncle Joss and his friends kill the crew and take the loot.
A problem develops when it is learned that one of the gang has been taking more than his share. Newcomer Jem is the prime culprit. The gang makes up a noose and try to hang Jem, but he is saved from death by Mary. The two escape to the house of Squire Pengallan, who Mary had met when she first arrived. The squire it played brilliantly by Charles Laughton.
Things are discovered at the squire’s. Jem reveals that he is with the Royal Navy and trying to uncover who is behind the pirate gang. That person happens to be the squire.
When the Pengallan finds out his gang has been infiltrated, he tries his best to get rid of Jem. The blood thirsty pirates still have it in for Jem, so the squire hands the Royal Navy member over to them. Since Mary knows Pengallan’s secret, she must be rid of as well. He kidnaps her with the idea that the two will sail from the country together.
The movie ends happily. The pirates don’t get Jem. He escapes and rushes with the law to the dock. The men arrive just in time to save Mary. The embarrassed Pengallan decides to jump from the top of a ship, instead of being taken by the authorities.
Jamaica Inn is not a good movie. It was simply done by Hitchcock to complete his contract. There are no Hitchcock touches present here. The only reason to watch the movie is for Charles Laughton’s performance.