The Black Pirate
PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):
The film begins by showing the looting of a ship already captured by the pirates after a substantial engagement. After making off with all possible valuables, the last pirate aboard fires a powder trail and dives overboard. Several minutes later, the ship is destroyed..
While the pirates make merry with their spoil, the two sole survivors wash up on an island, an old man and his son. Before dying, the older man (later discovered to have been the Duke of Arnoldo) gives his signet ring to his son. His son then carries him inland and buries him. Meanwhile, the captain and some of his closer lieutenants have been making toward the same island with “the richest part of the treasure”. While they occupy themselves with taking the treasure to a well used cavern beneath a pond, the survivor carves out a declaration on a piece of driftwood: “MY FATHER I SOLEMNLY VOW TO BRING THY MURDERERS TO JUSTICE”.
During the burial of the treasure, the captain suggestively counts off the other members of the party to his lieutenant and lays out 5 pistols — one per man. As the two of them prepare to fire on the remainder of the unsuspecting men, their attention is arrested by the appearance of the nameless adventurer (Douglas Fairbanks) from over a ridge. They quickly prepare to meet him as he draws nearer. As one menacingly approaches him with a dirk, he calls a halt, stating his intent to join their Company of pirates.
At this one of the pirates, MacTavish, approaches him and asks him of his “qualeefeecations”. He responds by asking who their best fighter is, a distinction all defer to the captain. He walks determinedly to him and in response to a contemptuous appraisal, slaps him. At this insult, the captain draws a dirk and cutlass, our adventurer snatches a cutlass from the ground and a swipes a dirk from another pirate, and they go at each other. A battle ensues, and eventually our hero kills the captain.
The lieutenant is unimpressed and says there is more to being a pirate than sword tricks. With that, the adventurer says he will capture the next ship of prey single-handed, which he does. On his way, however, he meets up with the son of the murdered old man, who hires him to murder the rest of the pirates. However, he has to use his wits to keep the pirates from blowing up the ship and murdering the crew and passengers. He suggests they hold the ship for ransom. When a princess is discovered on board, he must also think quickly to save her and urges the crew to use her as a hostage to insure their ransom plot will succeed. However she must remain “spotless and unharmed.” The lieutenant, who has won her by drawing lots and is displeased, but cannot go against the crew who has been won over by this new leader. Meanwhile, the son sneaks aboard to check on the adventurer. To keep the ransom plan from succeeding, the lieutenant arranges to have the ship carrying the ransom note blown up several hours after it leaves. When the son, now known as The Black Pirate, tries to get the princess away from the ship and safely on shore, he is caught and ordered to walk the plank. The adventurer helps him cut the cords tying his hands just before walking the plank. Everyone thinks The Black Pirate is dead, but he swims ashore. The crew discovers the adventurer has been plotting against them, and throws him overboard. The take the ship to port and attack the black pirate, whom they kidnap and bring aboard their ship. They plan to murder him and the princess and detonate the ship, making off with what treasure remains after the initial raid. However, just as MacTavish is about to kill the Black Pirate, a sword is seen piercing through him. The adventurer has returned and he cuts the son loose, as the two fight off the band of pirates. They free the princess and the son plans to marry her. The adventurer says his goodbyes and is off. The film concludes with the son and princesses wedding, as the adventurer stares down on them. In the final seconds, a small smile appears on his lips, jut as the film fades to black
There is an old saying that goes, “Silence is golden.” Well, in the case of The Black Pirate, that can be either true or false, depending on your point of view.
Me, I love classic cinema. I’ll probably go to my grave with my final words saying something along the lines of today’s movies can’t hold a candle to the classics. I truly belive this statement to be true with every breath of my being and will fight and argue anyone on this point until the cows come home.
However, while I love the classics, I’m not really a fan of every one of them, or certain subgenres, if you will. For instance, this film, was made in 1926…before sound was added to film. This is the second silent film that I will have reviewed, the first being the immortal Nosferatu.
I don’t know, I guess I just wasn’t in the mood for this like I thought I was this afternoon, because I just couldn’t get into the picture.
The plot is typical of pirate fare. Random guy sneaks aboard a ship, pretends to be someone else to save the girl. We find out who he really is and he suddenly becomes a hero and saves the day.
I would say this was formulaic, but this was 1926…if anything, it was making the formula!
I don’t know…something just was bothering me about this flick, and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.
I know…it must have been the midi sequenced music!
For those of you that don’t know…and don’t quote me on this, as I’m not 100% on it either…but when silent films were released in their day, people would be treated to the film on the screen and a live orchestra playing the score.
Obviously, this would be impossible to do today, as I’m watching this via Netflix streaming. However, why exactly couldn’t they get some real orchestral tracks and put them on loop, rather than this midi crap? I know that for some of you out there, it won’t matter, but it really irked me to the point that I nearly stopped watching! UGH!!!!
That point aside, this film is notable for being one of the first to make use of Technicolor, if I’m not mistaken. Now, don’t watch this expecting the bright, vibrant colors you see in other Technicolor gems. This was the 20s, after all, but everything has to start somewhere, right?
The acting here is not to shabby, though a bit overboard, but when people can’t hear what you’re saying you have to overemote.
The sword fights were a bit of a letdown for me. I expected something more…I don’t want to say believable…but…I don’t know…just something more. It was like they were fighting and 2 seconds later they were done and that was it.
I know that audiences back then weren’t all about the action like we are today, so I take that into account, but I still wanted more. Call me greedy!
For fans of silent and/or classic cinema, The Black Pirate is right up your alley. Personally, I wouldn’t recommend it, unless you can stomach the music in a can (midi) for the duration of the film. Is it worth it for those non-classic cinema lovers? Well, I can’t say that, but only you know your own tastes and would have to find out for yourself. For pirate film lovers, fear not, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides will be coming to theaters in the next couple of months. If this doesn’t strike your fancy, surely that will get your blood pumping!
3 out of 5 stars