Knockout 1951 indie ‘Pandora and the Flying Dutchman’ returns looking better than ever

Ava Gardner and James Mason in 'Pandora and the Flying Dutchman'
Ava Gardner and James Mason in a scene from “Pandora and the Flying Dutchman.”
(Cohen Media Group)

Independent films were not an invention of Sundance, they existed in the golden age Hollywood as well, and one of the most unusual, and the most gorgeous, was 1951’s “Pandora and the Flying Dutchman.” It was directed by Albert Lewin and starred James Mason and, looking especially beautiful, Ava Gardner in a pleasantly surreal supernatural tale of a cursed sea captain and a heedless young woman who lives only for pleasure. Or so she thinks.

Gardner looked as photogenic as she did because “Pandora’s” cinematographer was the great Jack Cardiff, famous for works like “Black Narcissus,” and because the film was shot in the knockout process known as three-strip Technicolor.

Restoring “Pandora” to its original glory has taken more than a dozen years, with the Cohen Media Group ultimately funding a glorious 4K version, which included more than 700 hours of digital restoration lavished on 177,120 frames of the film. Was it worth it? Absolutely.

Begins Feb. 21 at Laemmle Royal, West Los Angeles