An unqualified masterpiece of the silent era, "The Black Pirate" is now restored to its original Technicolor splendor. Made at the height of Douglas Fairbanks' career, this grand-scale epic tells the story of Michel, the s... more »ole survivor of a ship pillaged by buccaneers. To infiltrate the nest of bandits, he poses as the mysterious Black Pirate in order to recover the pilfered treasure and save a divine princess.« less
"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!"
A great talent in a wonderfully inventive movie
George Grellas | Cupertino, CA USA | 03/30/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"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."
Fairbanks at his height
George Grellas | 06/10/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"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."
Zeta Thompson | USA | 05/25/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"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."
Good film, very good extras
Anyechka | Rensselaer, NY United States | 12/17/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If this DVD had had just the film itself, I would have given it 4 stars, but the extras push it up to 5 stars for me. The film does move a bit slowly, begins kind of in media res, has a rather thin plot, and has some holes in what little narrative plot there is, but it's still packed with the great swashbuckling and action-adventure one expects in a Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., film. He's in top form here, be it in a fight with both swords and rapiers, swinging from ropes, swimming, or effortlessly sliding down several huge sail masts while holding onto a knife slicing its way down the masts. It doesn't hurt that the film is in two-strip Technicolor, although that early color process didn't have an extraordinarily wide color spectrum. Still, limited color spectrum or not, Doug looks even more gorgeous in color. He was never regarded as a particularly gifted actor, but he was so popular because of how fun and exciting he was to watch, and really made up for his lack of a *great* acting ability with his amazing charisma, screen presence, his exciting personality, and his indisputed talent when it came to swashbuckling, physical action, stunts, and everything else about this genre he personified.
Though the plot does seem rather thin, it's pointed out in the audio commentary that it was intended that way. This film is supposed to be a series of situations and episodes, not one long solid narrative with a clearly-defined beginning, middle, and end. We open as a bunch of pirates are taking over an enemy ship and preparing to blow it up, with its tied-up crew still on board. Doug's character, the self-proclaimed "Black Pirate" (the only character who seems to have a name is MacTavish), and his dying father are the only survivors of the attack, but soon after he has carried his father onto the beach of some island, he discovers in horror and heartbreak that he's dead. He has just vowed revenge when the pirates responsible come onto the island themselves to bury some treasure; approaching them, he asks to join their company, and defeats their captain in a swordfight. For some reason, the pirates accept him as one of their own even though he's not only a stranger but has also just killed their own captain. (The pirate ship he joins is literally overflowing with pirates; one wonders where all of them fit on that ship.) He then proves his worth further by capturing a ship single-handed, and hatches the brilliant idea to hold the ship for a hefty ransom until noon the next day. To ensure the ransom will be paid up, he suggests they hold hostage the princess they found hiding down in the lower level of the ship with her maid. Of course, the Black Pirate ends up falling love with the princess (Billie Dove, who doesn't really have much to do but look scared) at first sight and decides to let her go in the night. However, one of the other pirates has his sights on her too, and feels she's his because he drew the short strand of rope when he and some of his friends were arguing over which one should get her. Things get even more complicated when he gets caught and has to face the wrath of most of the other pirates, and all while the ransom still hasn't been paid on the captured ship.
Though perhaps not Fairbanks's greatest film, it's still fun to watch and an action-packed suspenseful adventure all of the way through. The audio commentary by Rudy Behlmer adds a lot to it, and covers subjects such as the history of color in motion pictures (starting back in the 1890s with hand-colored films), the main stars of the picture, the shooting of the film, the history of pirate films, and bits of trivia, such as how the woman Doug kisses and embraces in the long shot near the end was actually Mary Pickford and not Billie Dove, since Mary didn't like her husband kissing other women in his films, at least not on the mouth (Billie Dove does kiss him on the cheek in an earlier scene). There are also 19 minutes of outtakes and behind the scenes footage with more commentary by Mr. Behlmer, as well as production stills that also have commentary. (Certain comments made by Mr. Behlmer during the audio commentary indicate that this commentary was originally done on a double-sided laser disc edition of this film, with the second half of the film, and the extras, on the other side.) Additionally, the soundtrack is actually the one that was originally written for the film back in 1926, so it's not just a generic piano or organ or a modern-day reinterpretation of what the best score for the film should be. (I generally don't have a problem with modern music being used to score silents, but I know a lot of purists hate it and prefer scores to be as close to the original music as possible.) Once again Kino has put together a spectacular DVD of a classic."