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Black Pirate

The Black Pirate

4.5 2
Director: Albert Parker, Douglas Fairbanks, Billie Dove, Donald Crisp

Cast: Albert Parker, Douglas Fairbanks, Billie Dove, Donald Crisp


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There are a lot of different editions of Albert Parker's The Black Pirate (1926), starring (and produced by) Douglas Fairbanks out there on DVD, but Kino claims its is restored, a direct conversion from its laserdisc edition of the movie, dating from 1996. This reviewer saw a very good theatrical presentation of the movie at New York's renowned Film Forum in


There are a lot of different editions of Albert Parker's The Black Pirate (1926), starring (and produced by) Douglas Fairbanks out there on DVD, but Kino claims its is restored, a direct conversion from its laserdisc edition of the movie, dating from 1996. This reviewer saw a very good theatrical presentation of the movie at New York's renowned Film Forum in 2006, just a few days before screening this disc, that didn't look quite as bright or, generally, as crisp as what we see on Kino's DVD. Indeed, once one gets past the rather minimalist main titles and cast list -- which are originals -- the movie looks at least a decade newer than any 1926 movie has a right to look in the twenty-first century -- the two-strip Technicolor shooting process has its limitations, but not many, and the materials have been carefully restored; Fairbanks was impressed with the two-color Technicolor Toll of the Sea in 1922, but had to wait until the company had developing facilities established in Hollywood before he would consider shooting a movie using the process. As scholar Rudy Behlmer explains in his exceptionally fine commentary track (accessible most easily by pushing the "audio" button on your remote), Fairbanks and Technicolor's technicians carefully worked out an antiquarian look to the movie in choosing the color tones, so that the movie, in its every shot, looked like an artifact unearthed from the late Seventeenth Century, like a contemporary pirate account on parchment, unearthed and unfolded. The fact that it has survived at all is something of a miracle, as Behlmer explains in his commentary -- the story of its rescue and restoration makes something of a thriller story in itself, almost as exciting as the movie itself. The 90-minute movie has been given a generous 18 chapters, and is augmented not only with Behlmer's commentary but also 19 minutes of surviving outtakes, plus a new recording of the 1926 score authored by Mortimer Wilson, which is astonishingly sophisticated -- apparently, Fairbanks gave the composer a free hand in terms of what he wrote, advising him to let the music evolve in its own way. The outtakes come complete with commentary, explaining their importance -- the action has also been slowed down so that it's possible to study how certain stunts and special effects (most notably the ride down the sail on a slicing sword) were done. It's a little difficult to maneuver around the menu at first, but overall this is an extremely satisfying DVD, with a lot to offer both the casual viewer and the serious silent movie enthusiast, and well worth the asking price.

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Monica McIntyre
Executed with Douglas Fairbanks's signature bravado and flair, this 1926 swashbuckling classic was the first epic to be shot entirely in Technicolor. The adventure begins when a group of vicious and greedy pirates attack a ship sailing the South Seas. The sole survivor, Fairbanks, washes ashore on a deserted isle and swears revenge. Meeting up with the earringed scallywags again, he bests their captain in a duel and becomes the new leader of the pirates, secretly setting them up for imprisonment. Fairbanks was not only one of the biggest stars of his day; he was a consummate producer and a great stuntman. The film's action sequences are surprisingly graceful, with Fairbanks flying across ship decks like a trapeze artist. In one astounding stunt, he slides down the face of a sail, his knife easing his descent as it slices the canvas in two. The gorgeous period sets and costumes add to this silent gem's exquisite air of make-believe.
All Movie Guide - Richard Gilliam
The Black Pirate was unpopular with critics on its release, but it is remembered today for its fine production design and innovative use of an early version of Technicolor. The color shoot required larger than usual amounts of lighting, presenting a unique challenge for set designer Carl Oscar Borg; the cumbersome camera limited the types of shots available to director Albert Parker and cinematographer Henry Sharp. Still, Parker and company managed to keep the film visually interesting and the action sequences fast-paced. Pirate is also notable for its point-of-view editing, and its unusually frequent use of intertitles to convey dialogue. Producer-writer-star Douglas Fairbanks hoped that the film would be his comeback vehicle, rescuing him from ponderous epics and lightweight comedies. Despite its brisk pace and persistent good humor, however, Pirate didn't provide Fairbanks with a receptive audience, though critics would grow to appreciate the film as some of his best work.

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Kino Video
[Dolby Digital Stereo]

Special Features

19 minutes of rare outtake footage; Audio commentary by film historian Rudy Behlmer; Presented in restored technicolor; Original 1926 orchestral score by Mortimer Wilson recorded in digital stereo, conducted by Robert Israel

Related Subjects

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Douglas Fairbanks Michel, "The Black Pirate"
Billie Dove The Princess
Donald Crisp McTavish
Tempe Piggott Duenna
Anders Randolf Pirate Leader
Sam de Grasse Pirate Lieutenant
Charles Stevens Powder man
John Wallace Bit
Fred Becker Bit
E.J. Ratcliffe Bit
Mrs. Piggolt Duenna
Charles Belcher Chief Passenger

Technical Credits
Albert Parker Director
Carl Oscar Borg Art Director
Jack Cunningham Screenwriter
Douglas Fairbanks Original Story,Producer
William Nolan Editor
Henry Sharp Cinematographer
Mortimer Wilson Score Composer
Lotta Woods Screenwriter

Scene Index

Side #1 --
1. Opening Titles [2:41]
2. The Pirate Leader [6:04]
3. Sole Survivors [5:52]
4. Marooned [5:45]
5. "I Would Join Your Company" [4:42]
6. Single-Handed Capture [7:42]
7. Customary Tactics [4:39]
8. A Royal Hostage [8:45]
9. The Ransom Ship [6:18]
10. Lovestruck [4:12]
11. When Night Lowers [3:46]
12. Bid for Freedom [3:38]
13. A Trial for Life [9:25]
14. Comes a Horseman [3:16]
15. The Noonday [4:06]
16. To the Rescue [5:05]
17. Strength in Numbers [2:17]
18. The Princess & the Duke [5:41]

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The Black Pirate 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Let me please correct: this DVD produced by Image as shown above, is presented not in B/W but indeed in Technicolor. The print is incredibly good, sharp and the colors are almost modern. The newly recorded original orchestral soundtrack is pure pleasure as well. The film itself can never tire you - it's fast paced no nonsense and can even be enjoyed by those who ususally don't enjoy silent flicks. Plus the DVD includes a wonderful documentary about The Making Of Black Pirate, which features many interesting stunts and swordfighting sequences. One of the very best DVD-s I own - and I own many!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago