In the West Coast of England in 1765, a young boy called Jim Hawkins lives with his mother in a tiny country inn which they run. Captain William Bones, a sickly lodger, gives Hawkins a treasure map after being visited by two pirates, the second of whom gives the captain a note marked with the black spot. That same night Bones is found dead at the inn, and Jim shows Squire Trelawney the map. Trelawney recognizes the map as belonging to the buccaneer Captain Flint and bankrolls a voyage to discover the pirate's lost treasure. Trelawney hires Captain Smollett and his ship, the Hispaniola, bringing along his friend Dr. Livesey as the ship's doctor and Jim as the cabin boy.
Before departure Trelawney is taken in by Long John Silver, a one-legged inn-keeper, who agrees to gather a crew. Silver strikes up a friendship with Jim and joins the expedition as the ship's cook. Smollett is concerned about the crew, especially when he reveals to Trelawney that the nature of their journey is common knowledge.
At sea Jim overhears Silver and the crew's plan to mutiny, discovering that the seamen hired by Silver are Captain Flint's old crew. Jim reveals the treachery to Smollett who asks Jim to stay friends with Silver to learn more. Upon reaching Treasure Island, Silver offers to tow the ship to a safer anchorage, using two of the ship's row boats. While the ship is being towed, one of Silver's men, Merry, leads a mutiny on the ship. Smollett, having been forewarned of the plot by Jim, is able to hold them off with the few men loyal to him and imprisons the mutineers below decks. Silver cuts the row boats from the Hispaniola and heads for shore with the rest of his men, taking Jim as a hostage. Smollett, Trelawney, and Livesey go ashore after them, leaving two guards on the ship.
On the island, Jim escapes and meets Ben Gunn, marooned by Flint five years ago. Gunn shows Jim the boat he's built, then leads him to Flint's stockade, where he meets up with Smollett and the others. Meanwhile, Merry escapes, takes the ship and raises the Jolly Roger. Silver returns to the Hispaniola, arms his men with muskets and makes plans to take the stockade. Short of men, Silver attempts to parlay with Smollett, but when he is rebuffed, Silver calls his men to attack. The assault on the stockade fails, but Silver wounds Smollett. Although seemingly protected by the stockade, Smollett surmises that, with the morning tide, Silver could move the Hispaniola into cannon range and level the fort.
Jim takes Gunn's boat and cuts the Hispaniola's anchor rope. The pirate Israel Hands discovers Jim and chases him up into the ship's rigging. Hands injures Jim arm with a throwing knife but is killed by the boy's pistol. Jim strikes the Jolly Roger and hoists the Union Jack. Slowed by his wound, it takes him all night to get back to the stockade, which is unguarded. Inside, Jim searches for the doctor to tend his wound, but the man asleep under Livesey's coat is Long John Silver. Jim faints on the spot. Silver finds the map on him as his men wake up. Merry wants Jim dead, but Silver states he wants to trade him for the map, which his men believe is with Smollett. The men go outside to vote, pirate-style. From the stockade's lookout, Silver sees that the ship's aground, flying the Union Jack. The men give Silver the black spot, but he objects. Rattled, they let him bargain with Livesey for the map. Silver returns with Jim, flaunting the map. The pirates are overjoyed until they find out that the treasure - 700,000 pounds sterling - isn't there. The pirates turn on Silver, who manages to kill three of them before Smollett's men appear to defeat the rest. Greeting Silver, Gunn reveals that he's the one who dug up Flint's treasure and has stashed it in a cave.
Captain Smollett still wants Silver taken back for trial in England. Hawkins, Trelawney and two others take Silver to the Hispaniola aboard a rowboat loaded with a chest of treasure. Silver snatches Jim's pistol and forces Trelawney and the others out of the boat. He wants Hawkins to steer while he rows, but Jim beaches them instead. Silver orders Hawkins to push him off, but Jim refuses and Silver threatens to shoot him. Silver is unable to carry out his threat and drops the pistol, attempting to push the boat off himself. Seeing Silver struggle, Jim helps him, waving a hesitant farewell as Silver rows away.
Exterior scenes were shot in Cornwall (River Fal, Falmouth, Carrick Roads, Gull Rock and Helford River), Devon (cliff scenes), Bristol (wharf), and Iver Heath in Buckinghamshire. Interiors were filmed at Denham Film Studios, Denham, Buckinghamshire.
The film was the sixth most popular movie at the British box office in 1950.
In 1954, Newton reprised his role of Long John Silver in a non-Disney sequel also directed by Haskin, Long John Silver (this, incidentally, was the first CinemaScope film to be shot in Australia) and went on to play Silver again in a television series, The Adventures of Long John Silver (made 1954–55), also shot at Pagewood Studios Sydney, made before Australia had television.
The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:2003: AFI's 100 Years...100 Heroes & Villains:
Long John Silver – Nominated Villain
Re-releases, re-editing, and home video
Walt Disney Productions re-released the film to US theaters in 1975. It had to be submitted to the MPAA to receive a rating; they gave the film a PG. At the time, Disney had a G-only policy that would not be relaxed for another four years to allow PG-rated films, so they cut the film to receive a G rating. Those cuts totaled 9 minutes, bringing the film's running time down to 87 minutes.
The film came out on videotape in the US in 1981, 1986, 1991, and 1997, and on laserdisc in 1983 and 1992. While the original videotape and laserdisc contained the 87-minute G-rated version, by the early 1990s the studio had restored the original cut with a PG rating, as several Disney-branded releases had already been rated PG by this point, and every release since 1991, including the 2003 DVD release, has been the uncut 96-minute version.Dell Four Color #624 (April 1955)