The Light At The Edge of the World marks Kirk Douglas's second filming of a Jules Verne novel. The first of course was one of his most popular films 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea. But this film is far more serious and has far more adult themes than Walt Disney's film aimed for the kid trade.
This was the last novel Jules Verne had published during his lifetime and it's a story of survival against almost impossible odds. In the original novel Kirk Douglas's character was named Vasquez which certainly was more in keeping with someone assigned to lighthouse duty on Cape Horn. But in giving Douglas's character an Anglo name it better explains his presence on the island and it certainly is in keeping with the international tradition of Jules Verne's writings.
Cape Horn is one of the loneliest parts of the globe and the geography of the southern tip of South America. Look on a map of the many islands and rocks in that part of the globe and imagine how rough the sea is because it has only limited space. It's not without reason that sailors in all cultures say that no one is really a true sailor until they've made a voyage crossing from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean in that area. Remember also this is 1865 as Yul Brynner identifies the year and the Panama Canal had not been built.
Which makes the lighthouse at Cape Horn an international concern which was something that is ever present in Jules Verne's writings. But then as now there are malevolent forces in the world and they are in this story Yul Brynner and his pirate crew.
On one desultory like any other down there, Yul Brynner's ship docks at the island and kills lighthouse keeper Fernando Rey and his young assistant Massimo Ranieri. By sheer dumb luck Douglas is not at the lighthouse when this happens, but he becomes a hunted man by Brynner and his pirate crew who want to set up headquarters there and use the light to pile up as many wrecks as they can plunder. Also they want to eliminate Douglas who's now the only witness to their crimes.
I did like this film very much both when first seeing it in the theater and now on VHS. One thing of interest I found here is that there is no ambiguity, no shadings of character. Kirk Douglas is a good guy and Yul Brynner a bad one, no one is going to walk away thinking anything else. In fact Yul Brynner's pirate captain Jonathan Kongre is the most unredeemable villain we've seen on screen since Lee Marvin as Liberty Valance.
Definitely fans of Kirk Douglas, Yul Brynner and Jules Verne should earmark this film for their collection.