This was the final film in The Douglas Fairbanks Collection, which I got for my birthday. One of the earlier Technicolor films. Some sources name it as the first feature length Technicolor film, others simply as the first Technicolor epic, which could mean something different. The fencing in this movie has come a long way from The Mark Of Zorro. Fairbanks and the bald guy look like they know what they're doing with the swords this time, and they look like they're really trying to hurt each other.
Some of the violence is shocking even for today. Early on the pirate captain sees a captive swallow a ring, and points him out to one of his henchman. The pirate walks offscreen briefly and returns covered in blood up to his wrists, with a knife in one hand and the recovered ring in the other. Some time later, the second in command is sitting, and seems to be examining a sword, much as someone today might examine a gun before purchase. He makes a couple of swipes with it, then looks at a pair of captives tied to a pole next to him. He casually stabs one of them, like a child crushing a bug just to hear the crunch, then withdraws the bloody sword and goes back to examining it, all without a second thought. Finally, Doug himself has another strangling scene, almost as grusome as the one at the end of Robin Hood. Having had the satisfaction of pummeling his chief antagonist at the height of the climax, he places the man's throat across his thigh, then leans against the back of his neck with his full weight until he's dead. Very convincing and very satisfying.
The story is minimal. Doug is the only survivor of an attack by the pirates, and joins them to destroy them from within as revenge for the death of his father. Things get complicated when a princess is taken captive, and Doug falls in love with her. A sort of bonus subplot comes from the intrigue raised by the question of the Black Pirate's true identity. The first hint that he's not what he seems comes when a captive from another ship seems to recognize the ring given to Doug by his father, then again shortly after when Doug tosses the man a note to be given to the governor.
The colors look great, the music is perfect, and the running time isn't as overwhelming for Fairbanks fans who have trouble finding two or more hours for a movie in a typical day.