The Secret of the Purple Reef (1960) feat. Richard Chamberlain and Peter Falk



When the fishing vessel known as the Cloud vanishes off the coast of Antigua, taking with it Capt. Robert Christophe and a crew of eight, Robert’s brother, Mark Christophe (Jeff Richards), who left the cloistered life of the island years earlier, returns and is chastised by Grandmere (Gina Petrushka), the family matriarch, for deserting the family.

The Cloud disappeared on a clear, calm night, and since no remains of the vessel have been found, the insurance company has refused to settle the claim, ruling that foul play may be involved. Grandmere, furious because the family name has been besmirched, admonishes Mark to exonerate his dead brother’s name.

With his younger brother Dean Christophe (Richard Chamberlain), Mark questions Webber about his involvement with the Cloud. Webber claims he booked passage after his own freighter, the Dagger, foundered at Purple Reef, and says Robert ferried him and his crew to shore before heading out on their fateful, last voyage. Tobias declares that Webber lied.

Webber and his boat speed by, peppering gunshots at Tobias and warning him to mind his own business.

Mark meets with Rue at the casino. After Rue expresses surprise that Ashby would be working as an engineer aboard the Dagger, Mark returns to the docks and finds Twine (Philip Rosen), one of Webber’s thugs, ransacking the boat after knocking Dean unconscious. As Webber watches from a distance, Mark throws Twine overboard.

Tobias discovers the Dagger has sunk, and spots an abandoned dinghy carrying a crate of dynamite. After towing the dinghy to shore, Tobias stashes the dynamite. Twine and two other thugs knock him unconscious, and drag him into the sea to drown, towing the boats behind them. After they depart, Ashby pulls Tobias to safety.

At the Flamboyant Club, Rue asks Webber where the Dagger was headed when it sank. He replies Tampa. She senses he’s hiding something.

Worried about Ashby, Rue sends for Mark and admits that Ashby is her father. Their meeting is observed by Twine, who reports back to Webber. Mark then sails to Antigua to question the commissioner, the last man who saw Robert and his crew after they dropped Webber and Ashby ashore. Mark learns that Ashby has disappeared, and begins to believe the commissioner concluded that the men in the dinghy were Robert and his crew, unaware that the Cloud never made it to Antigua.

Mark accuses Dean of sinking the Dagger. Webber claims he lost money when the Dagger sank. Mark suspects Webber bought and sold the Dagger several times using assumed names, thus inflating its value and making a profit on the insurance settlement. Now fearing for Rue’s safety, Mark offers her refuge at his family’s home in St. Kitts. Rue hurriedly packs her suitcase. Webber comes to the club and shoots her in the back.

Unaware, Mark and Dean sail out to the reef, where they find Tobias and Ashby, who admits that Webber scuttled the Cloud and killed its crew, knowing that the crew could testify that the Dagger was still afloat at the time of the alleged accident.

As Ashby concludes his tale, Webber and his thugs arrive. A shootout ensues. Dean is wounded. Tobias tries to carry him to safety, but is stabbed by Twine. Before dying, Tobias pierces Twine with his own dagger. After the other thugs are killed, Webber and Mark pummel each other in the surf, and as Dean hobbles to the beach, Mark overpowers Webber.

A 1960 20th Century Fox CinemaScope DeLuxe Color crime film directed by William Witney, produced by Gene Corman, written by Harold “Yabo” Yablonsky, based on Dorothy Cottrell’s short story, “The Silent Reefs” in The Saturday Evening Post (1952–53), cinematography by Kay Norton, starring Jeff Richards, Margia Dean, Robert Earl Jones, Terence De Marney, and soon-to-be-famous actors Richard Chamberlain and Peter Falk.

Several scenes feature a 35 foot sailing yacht, the Starwright, surrounded by hot skies and swim-perfect waters. E. G. van de Stadt designed it.

Jeff Richards’ last hurrah. He won a Golden Globe in 1954 for being “Most Promising Male Newcomer.” Margia Dean enjoyed working with director Witney, and later hired him when she produced “The Long Rope” (1961). Witney directed the classic “Spy Smasher” serial in 1942.

Robert L. Lippert brought Peter Falk to Hollywood to appear in “Murder Inc.” (1960). Lippert liked him so much he used him on this film. Lippert was an American film producer and cinema chain owner. He was president and chief operating officer of Lippert Theatres, Affiliated Theatres and Transcontinental Theatres, all based in San Francisco, and at his height, he owned a chain of 139 movie theaters, and helped finance more than 300 films, including the directorial debuts of Sam Fuller, James Clavell, and Burt Kennedy. His films include “I Shot Jesse James” (1949) and “The Fly” (1958), and was known as “King of the Bs”. In 1962, Lippert said, “the word around Hollywood is: Lippert makes a lot of cheap pictures but he’s never made a stinker.”

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