The Black Pirate Reviews
After the opening credits, the film presents three title cards that provide exposition. The first one states: "A page from THE HISTORY and Lives of the most Bloodthirsty Pirates who ever infested THE SOUTHERN SEAS." The pirates that our hero contends with here live up to the bloodthirsty part of this description. The second placard adds: "Being an account of BUCCANEERS & THE SPANISH MAIN, the Jolly Roger, GOLDEN GALLEONS, bleached skulls, BURIED TREASURE, the Plank, dirks & cutlasses, SCUTTLED SHIPS, Marooning, DESPERATE DEEDS, DESPERATE MEN, and--even on this dark soil--ROMANCE." Finally, the third placard states: "It was the custom of THESE PIRATES to SUBDUE their prey, LOOT the ship, BIND their captives and BLOW THEM UP." Reportedly, Fairbanks and original director Donald Crisp quarreled and Fairbanks replaced him with Parker. Earlier, Crisp had directed the Fairbanks‚?? 1925 ‚??Zorro‚?? sequel ‚??Don Q Son of Zorro.‚?? Nevertheless, Crisp remained aboard as a salty old dog of pirate named MacTavish who helps out our hero on several occasions.
The agile Douglas Fairbanks toplines this lightweight but lavish escapade as the noble son of the Duke of Arnoldo. As "The Black Pirate" unfolds, the sea wolves are looting a ship. They have tied up virtually everybody left alive. Afterward, they run a powder trail from the deck to the powder magazine in bowels of the ship. These pirates are extremely ruthless. Parker shows the ship in a long shot as it explodes and sinks. Michel (Douglas Fairbanks of "The Thief of Bagdad") and his father are the only survivors. Neither Michel nor his father appeared in the earlier scenes. Not only are the details about their survival ommitted, but also you would think the pirates would recognize him when he asked to join them. Meantime, Fairbanks' character doesn't show up until 9 minutes into the action. Michel‚??s father hands him an elaborate ring that Michel later uses to prove his identity. Michel vows to avenge the death of his dad at the hands of dastardly pirates. The Duke's son masquerades as a cutthroat himself and confronts them after they have stashed their treasure in an underwater cave on the island. Before these pirates can stash their treasure, they have to dig up a chest with a key inside it to the locked gate of their secret underwater hiding place. Michel fights his way into their ranks to end their criminal ways. Before he challenges the pirate captain (Anders Randolf) to a duel, Michel fashions a makeshift grave stone from a piece of flotsam and scratches his solemn vow on it to exact revenge on the brigands. The treacherous pirates keep our hero guessing as much as he keeps teaching them one new trick after another until he defeats them. Along the way, he saves a damsel-in-distress, Princess Isobel (Billie Dove of ‚??Yellow Lily‚??) and wins her hand in marriage. Some of our hero‚??s clever tricks involve capturing an entire merchant vessel alone by himself. Initially, the pirates are dubious about his chances for pulling off such a stunt, but he captures the ship. Eventually, our hero vanquishes the villains after facing certain death by having to walk the plank. Meanwhile, Jack Cunningham adapted the story while Fairbanks, writing under the pseudonym of Elton Thomas, wrote the screenplay. The only drawback to the plot is that some of the coincidences are just too good to be true. Principally, the same island where the pirates stash their treasure is the same island our hero washes ashore.
Clocking in at a trim 94-minutes, ‚??The Black Pirate‚?? contains more than enough action for its length, and the characters are interesting not only for who they are but also what they accomplish. Any pirate movie that opens with the pirate captive looting the dead is a keeper. He appropriates the rings from thee dead sailors. Not long after this scene, the pirate captain spots a captive swallowing a ring. The pirate captain summons a mate and pantomimes to him about how he needs to remove the ring from the captive. The mate leaves while the captain watches him. When the mate returns, he hands the chieftain the ring that he eviscerated from the student's gullet. Naturally, the pirate captain gets his comeuppance when the Fairbanks' hero challenges him to a duel and defeats him. Fairbanks doesn't so much kill him as the pirate kills himself when he falls on a sword that Fairbanks had stuck in the ground. The two-tone Technicolor makes the blood soaked forearms of the pirate stand out. No pirate movie, not even the Errol Flynn sound classics, ever topped this until the advent of R-rated movies. Indeed, "The Black Pirate" has everything that a great pirate movie needs. Interestingly, this was Fairbank's last major money maker.