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4.0 out of 5 stars A GREAT EARLY SWASHBUCKLER,
This review is from: Black Pirate [Import] (DVD)
By the time this movie was made, Douglas Fairbanks Sr. had already cemented his role as perhaps the greatest swashbuckler actor ever, in movies like Robin Hood, The Thief of Baghdad, The Three Musketeers, and The mark of Zorro.
"The Black Pirate" tells the story of a young man of noble lineage, the Duke of Arnoldo (Fairbanks), who is the sole survivor of a pirate attack on his ship, which was blown to pieces, and who swears to avenge his father, killed in the explosion. On the island where he had been marooned, he comes across those pirates, busy trying to hide the loot coming from the Duke's ship. He joins them under the name of the Black Pirate after defeating the pirate leader in a rapier and dagger fight.
To show his worth, he offers to capture another ship single-handedly without a shot fired, and succeeds. However, his goal is of saving the lives of the people on board, including that of the lovely princess Isobel (Billie Dove). He therefore proposes a deal with the pirates: Since the captured ship is intact, it can be held for ransom. While the old pirate ship is going to claim the ransom, with an emissary from the captured ship on board, the Black Pirate and most of the pirate crew stay on the new ship, waiting for the return of the old ship.
The Black Pirate had secretly given a message to the emissary, telling him to send a fleet against the pirates, while he would put the princess safely on shore in the middle of the night. However, a pirate lieutenant (Sam de Grasse, who had played the part of Prince John in Fairbanks's "Robin Hood"), wants to keep the princess for himself, and arranges for the old ship to be blown up.
While the lieutenant watches the old ship being blown to pieces, he sees the Black Pirate attempting to put the Princess on shore. The Black Pirate is arrested and is condemned to the plank. He however survives, with the help of a sympathetic Scottish pirate, MacTavish (Donald Crisp), and makes it to the shore.
As the deadline for the return of the ransom ship is about to expire, the Black Pirate comes to the rescue with military help from the local Governor, reveals his noble identity, saves the Princess and asks her hand in marriage.
As far as story is concerned, it is very standard, featuring the usual elements of the swashbuckler genre: the energetic swordplay, the climactic rescue, and the happy ending.
While "The Black Pirate" was never remade in its entirety -- the closest it ever got to being remade was the 1952 swashbuckler, "Against All Flags" --, key scenes were re-used in other films. The famous scene in which Douglas Fairbanks slits his way down through the captured ship's sails was used again in one of Errol Flynn's last swashbucklers, "Against All Flags" (1952).
The main reason why this film is still fondly remembered today is because of its use of the two-strip Technicolor process, used in films since 1922, but generally reserved for a few important scenes. For example, in "Ben-Hur" (1925), the scenes featuring the Christ were always filmed in color.
The "special edition" DVD of "The Black Pirate" includes extra features, such as production stills, extra footage, and a choice of soundtracks: the score by Mortimer Wilson, or a comment by film historian Rudy Behlmer. Behlmer may not be the best narrator around, and may not help disprove the reputation of professional historians as being "boring", but he offers insightful comments on the film's production, on the stars, on the Technicolor process, and on various other aspects of the film, all of which thoroughly researched. Film buffs in particular may appreciate anecdotes, such as Mary Pickford substituting for Billie Dove in the final kiss scene because Mary could not tolerate to see Fairbanks kissing other women. Only a few words are particularly out of place, such as the reference to "side two" of the "Laserdisc", as the commentary was first used in the Laserdisc edition of the film. As well, Behlmer's narration tends to distract the viewer, but it is of such importance that it is worth listening to at least once.
5.0 out of 5 stars Romance! Adventure! Swordfights!,
Wahooo! Now this is a fun movie! I was totally taken by surprise. The swashbuckler of swashbucklers! "The Black Pirate" is the great grand-pappy of all pirate movies to come, and every possible genre convention is on display, be it sliding down the sail by splitting it with a dagger, or fencing several men at once, catching all of their blades with one parry. A lot of great films, such as "The Princess Bride," find their roots here in "The Black Pirate." This is like Disney's "Pirates of the Caribean" ride come to life, with the addition of dashing Douglas Fairbanks.
Fairbanks is extrodinarily athletic, and it is incredible to watch his body in motion. They don't make 'em like that any more. He has the smile, the mustache and the skill with a blade. I imagine he would give a jaunty laugh in the midst of danger.
Although it is a silent film, "The Black Pirate" is not black and white, but colored in a two-color Technicolor process. The color gives an excellent, sureal effect. The underwater scenes are amazing.
Ahoy! Hoist the main sail and prepare to Broadside!
5.0 out of 5 stars A great talent in a wonderfully inventive movie,
Douglas Fairbanks was at the top of his form in this film, and that is saying a lot. Every era has its screen giants, and Fairbanks held that status throughout the 1920s through his cheerful heroics in such titles as The Three Musketeers, Robin Hood, The Thief of Bagdad, and The Black Pirate. Crowds loved his film persona because it was memorable: it was larger-than-life; it was splendidly imaginative; and it consistently showed good overcoming evil. Fairbanks perfectly depicted -- in 50-foot form on a big screen full of splendid sets -- acrobatics, stunts, and deeds of derring-do that no one of us could ever hope to do. Call it escapism, if you will, but it enraptured countless moviegoers historically drawn into this world of Mr. Fairbanks's fantasy epics. Here, as well, there is the added joy of seeing a film genre -- that of the pirate adventure -- at a time when fresh minds brought creative ideas and great craft to bear upon the films of their devising. What the viewer gets, then, is an original product that is vivid and memorable -- and not a tired recycling by lesser talents of uninventive themes and ideas. A viewer of this film, even on DVD, is wondrously drawn into an exotic and fascinating (indeed, even an early Technicolor) world and is held there firmly in place by the skilled and entertaining work of able craftsmen for the duration of the 85-minute running time. And, while so drawn in, one is also uplifted, if nothing else than by the very cheeriness of the star's persona. Unless one despises entertainment value as a legitimate goal of movie-making, there is nothing more that one could ask from a good film of this type. Nor should the age of the film, or its being a silent picture, deter any but those who are prejudiced. There is a reason why Douglas Fairbanks was made so wealthy by moviegoers that he was able to become a founder of United Artists. Whatever else there is, there is sort of magic at work in his best films. It is well worth the modern moviegoer's time, then, to see why this film created such excitement back in 1926. The DVD format makes all this vividly accessible. Highly recommended.
4.0 out of 5 stars A homage to boy's fiction,
In Douglas Fairbanks's only color movie, we are treated to what is really a homage to boy's pirate novels. All of the elements are in place: the daredevil hero, the insidious villain, the amiable sidekick, the damsel in distress, saber battles, buried treasure, murder on the high seas, bloody duels on the beach, walking the plank....
The plot could have been from a Robert Louis Stevenson novel. Fairbanks plays a nobleman whose father is murdered. He swears vengeance and to gain it, he infiltrates the pirate ship. Plans go awry when the lovely Billie Dove shows up. (she was cast mainly because Fairbanks liked the way she photographed in color!)
This edition features an orchestral score and a commentary on the making of the movie. I found it rather fun to see how Fairbanks worked at making his stunts perfect.
As mentioneed before, the movie is RATHER more bloody than one expects in such an old film but it is by no means as gory as most modern action movies. (I would rate the violence between a PG and a PG-13) Other than the violence, there are no objectionable scenes, it is all mainly suspense.
This was made at the height of Douglas Fairbanks's popularity and you can easily see how it influenced swashbucklers for years after. It's only a shame that the genre died out in the 50s. The certainly do not make them like they used to.
4.0 out of 5 stars Fun,
The Black Pirate definitely set the tone for every pirate movie to follow. The stunts are fantastic, of course, and the plot - while perhaps predictable by today's standards - is still different enough to keep you interested.
Basically, Douglas Fairbanks's ship is attacked by pirates, blown up and he & his father escape. His father dies later and Fairbanks vows he will avenge his death.
The opportunity soon arises when the pirate crew arrives on the same island to bury their gold. Fairbanks offers to join their band and sets about proving himself worthy, first in a fight and then by taking over a ship single-handedly. Of course, he gets his revenge and The affection o f the princess, Billie Dove, held hostage by the pirates. Sam De Grasse as the resident evil character is foiled repeatedly in his attempts to despoil her by Fairbanks.
The restoration of the film is well done and the musical score contributes to each scene. The added 19 minutes of outtakes and production photos, narrarated by Rudy Behlmer is fascinating - but at times a little too redundant. (I really don't need to see 15 takes of the same scene.) But the explanation of how the stunts were performed, as well as the background of the technicolor process makes it worth watching.
5.0 out of 5 stars A Splendid Adventure,
THE BLACK PIRATE has everything you could want in a seafaring adventure: cutthroat pirates, swordplay, a damsel in distress, and Doug Fairbanks swinging, leaping, and diving into action. Adding to the visual splendor is the two color Technicolor (still a highly experimental process at the time this movie was made), which has been carefully and gorgeously restored for this video release.Douglas Fairbanks is at his athletic and romantic best and his supporting cast is top notch. Billie Dove is a true vision of loveliness as the kidnapped princess and villainous Sam De Grasse's minimalist style contrasts well with Fairbanks' exuberance. The video is blessed with the original 1926 score, conducted by Robert Israel, and a bonus section of outtakes and production photos, narrarated by film historian Rudy Behlmer.
5.0 out of 5 stars A Good Buy!,
This is indeed a DVD which screams BUY ME in your air! This is a truly fast paced, fun to watch movie, presented in beautiful colours, ultrasharp picture and grrreat soundtrack by a chamber orchestra. The extra feature (The Making Of...) is very authentic and thorough as well, and watching it (discovering how the stunts were made) will make you want to watch the movie all over again at once!
If you wish to have ONE single silent flick in your collection, I suggest this is the definite on! Can't get much better!
4.0 out of 5 stars Fairbanks at his height,
By A Customer
This really qualifies as an epic, even though it is silent. Amazing special effects, excellent pirate costumes, a cast of characters that you wouldn't want to meet in broad daylight much less a dark alley. Very well acted, with a reasonably coherent plot. Also some underwater sequences that rival James Bond's! Fairbanks' acrobatics are terrific. One caution: you might be surprised at the goriness of some of the scenes, or what is assumed to take place off camera.
5.0 out of 5 stars PURE ENTERTAINMENT!,
This movie is just so darned fun, you'll have a huge smile on your face the whole time. The story blazes along, the performances are exhuberant, and the two-strip Technicolor process gives it all a beautifully surreal look. The new musical score and extra features on the disc are all top-notch. Have fun!
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Black Pirate [Import] by Albert Parker (DVD - 2004)