Blackbeard:Terror At Sea
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National Geographic: Blackbeard - Terror at Sea
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Most of what we know of Blackbeard comes from Charles Johnson's famous book "A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pirates", the classic history of piracy's golden age in the early 18th century. This serves as the basis for National Geographic's well-made film that chronicles Blackbeard's life and exploits from his early piratical conquests along the coast of the American colonies to his bloody death at the Battle of Ocracoke in 1718. The documentary portrays Teach as a somewhat human character who, despite his fearsome reputation as a bloodthirsty rogue , prefers to capture prizes without a fight and who spills blood only when needed to make a point. He forms a friendship with his first mate Israel Hands who serves as his trustworthy confidant throughout his career. Blackbeard tries and fails to settle down as a country gentleman after accepting the King's pardon, but quickly finds that gentlemanly ways and a proper wife do not suite him and he longs to return to his rightful place at sea. Virginia Governor Alexander Spottswood, obsessed with finding and killing Blackbeard, sends Lt. Robert Maynard of the Royal Navy to draw him out of 'retirement' and send him to the murky depths. The resulting battle is one of legend.
"Blackbeard- Terror at Sea" is an excellent documentary and serves to clear up many myths surrounding the legendary pirate. It is entertaining and educational and is highly recommended to anyone interested in the history of piracy and true adventure.
The only minor quibble I have with it is the fact vs. folklore special feature, I had a difficult time getting it to play on my dvd player. It would have been nice if they had had Play All on it instead of having to backtrack and watch each section individually.
Also, they don't credit the other actors which is a shame since they are very good, especially the actor who played Israel Hands.
For one, in this film Blackbeard is shown always operating on his own, on one ship, when in fact he often had a mini-flotilla of three or four vessels. Another surprise was that his famous flagship, Queen Anne's Revenge, was run aground in North Carolina (some say intentionally). Somehow the film failed to mention this seemingly important event.
The story is told through the eyes of Israel Hands, Blackbeard's 2nd-in-command. That much is true, for Hands was part of the crew, but the film does not mention that Hands actually captained another ship in Blackbeard's group; furthermore, the film shows Blackbeard deliberately wounding Hands to save him from a coming battle, while the historical account of the incident is that Blackbeard shot at another sailor, missed him, and the bullet found Hands by chance. Blackbeard's reason for shooting? "That if he did not now and then kill one of them, they would forget who he was." This is hardly the same reason for shooting as the film portrays.
Lastly, and rather disturbingly, the film shows Blackbeard bringing his new wife to his ship (after a brief attempt at retirement) and allowing his crew to gang-rape her; the voice-over in the film states "she was never heard from again." While I suppose that a corrupt individual like Blackbeard was certainly capable of such an act, I could find no historical reference or basis for it. In fact, if anything, it appears he was more of a "ladies' man" and, according to author Robert Lee "few pirates treated women or girls with greater respect than he..." Given that, it's puzzling why this film would portray Blackbeard authorizing such a heinous crime.
The sad part is, I really enjoyed the film and thought it was well done. It was only after I did some research that I learned the film does not do the best job in presenting history as it happened. I give it 3 stars for entertainment value, but it loses two for playing "fast and loose" with some of the facts.
I first rented this from one of the major online rental companies (not sure if I can post their name here or not) and watched it. Having an interest in Pirates and more specifically Blackbeard, I liked what I saw. However when you dig into the history of the man and his exploits you find that some of the information covered is not entirely accurate.
Before I delve into that let's first comment on the film production quality, and what they actually made.
The film itself is as long as one would imagine for any documentary. The acting for the most part is rather solid as are some of the fighting scenes. Having also an interest in swordfighting, I found a few of the fights to appear silly and very "for the camera". I don't think they captured the chaos of the battle in most of the scenes.
You then have this being a made for tv production. So, of course you have your commercial breaks. Unfortunately when making a DVD (I later purchased this from this website) you end up with a lot of recapping. The same scenes end up being played over and over (I think I saw the same sailor fly through the air five or six times).
The actor that plays Blackbeard (James Purefoy) did a fantastic job and I think easily the best on screen depiction of the man. Unfortunately there really is only so much (and it's limited) info on Blackbeard that I would imagine it was hard to accurately portray him. But the way he walks, talks, and acts is how I saw Blackbeard and I think that speaks volumes for the film. In case you don't know who the actor is, he is the same man that plays Marc Antony in the ROME series on HBO.
So, fantastic production... now let's get into the issues. The first problem I had with this film was that it was lacking a fleet. We know that at some point Blackbeard had as many as four or five ships sailing together. At the time many of the attacks in this film are portrayed, he had at least two. Never however, do we see those two ships. We get the impression that Blackbeard was a solo Pirate with a dozen men under his command when research suggests he had at LEAST 300. I think that discredits the true nature of the Pirate and how he functioned.
We also miss a lot of the important points in the film. We don't get to see the relationship with Hornigold, or Stede Bonnet (Pirate Captains that Blackbeard once served with, or commanded over). We do however get to see some elements (which I venture to wonder how accurate they really are) such as his marriage near the end of the film.
But they did do a decent job with including some of the lore and legends associated with the Pirate (such as his 13 or 14 marriages... and the story about his body swimming around the ship).
All in all I think it was a decent representation of the man. I don't think it's a completely accurate portrayal but for the sake of entertainment I can honestly say it's a fairly good film. I would recommend to anyone that is interested in Blackbeard, to do your research before concluding this film as fact. This film should be a supporting element, not the main focus for any real investigation. For that you might try the book Blackbeard: America's Most Notorious Pirate, by Angus Kostam. That can also be found here on this website (which is where I purchased it).