I must admit that I find it difficult to give a dispassionate view of this film because it is a part of the Jackson family folklore. I have a sentimental attachment to the film because of the happy memories that it evokes. I first watched Seven Seas to Calais in 1963 as my birthday treat. My little guests and I adored it and afterwards spent many a happy hour defeating the Spanish Armada on the local canal. The film later became one of my nephew's favourite films. It became a part if his childhood fantasy world; when the only things that stood between Darth Vader and world domination were the Millennium Falcon, the Golden Hind, Postman Pat's van and a paticoloured Stegasurous. My nephew is now a mature seventeen year old, still has the falcon and the ship. He has now obtained a digitally enhanced copy of Seven Seas to Calais. Therefore, I am afraid that readers will have to allow for bias.
The film covers Drake's story from the beginning of the circumnavigation to after the defeat of the Armada. Is it typically Hollywood's romantic view of history. Doughty is called Cardigan and hung. The Indian chief's daughter in California gave her name to the potato. Drake was concerned in the discovery of the Babington Plot. Rule Britannia was played in the Elizabethan era. Drake had a love-lorn aide called Mr Marsh. There are clear indications that Drake and Elizabeth would have liked a relationship. The Golden Hind was a very strange shape and often sailed too close to shore.
As a professional historian and a committed Drakeologist, I should condemn Seven Seas to Calais as rubbish, but it does portray some aspects extremely well. Elizabeth's mode of dealing with her ambassadors is superbly portrayed and Irene Worth is very much in character. Rod Taylor was much too handsome to play Drake. Yet his portrayal of Drake was spot-on. He even quirked his eyebrow as Drake did in one portrait. The film made good use of the fact that Drake had a sense of humour. The dialogues between Drake and Malcolm Marsh (Keith Mitchell playing Keith Mitchel) Drake and Parson Fletcher and Drake and Tom Moone are highly amusing. The scene between Drake and Malcom Marsh, in which Drake explains to Marsh why he must execute Doughy is brilliantly portrayed and very moving. Rod Taylor convincingly shows the struggle between the man and the general. The costumes and background details are well portrayed. However, one can tell that the Armada scenes are filmed in a tank. Rod Taylor's portrayal of Drake's impatience with court protocol was masterly and no doubt true of Drake himself. I use parts of the film in my teaching. The whole film is appreciated as an end of term treat.