Cast: Douglas Fairbanks, Billie Dove
Extras: Commentary by film historian Rudy Behlmer, Behind-the-scenes footage and outtakes
When discussing silent films, the first titles that usually come to mind are the great comedies of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, or foreign classics such as ’The Passion of Joan of Arc.’ But even back then there was a place in Hollywood for that staple of the movie lover’s diet, the action flick. ’The Black Pirate’ not only helped to establish the tried and true formula for adventure filmmaking, it also defined how pirate movies would look for the next seventy years.
Douglas Fairbanks stars as the lone survivor of a pirate attack who later infiltrates the buccaneer band by posing as the infamous Black Pirate. After defeating the pirate captain, Fairbanks takes command and single-handedly captures a passing ship with swashbuckling flair aplenty. Along with the treasure found aboard this prize ship and the prisoners taken, the pirates also discover a beautiful noblewoman, played by the luminous Billie Dove. The Black Pirate finds himself trapped between protecting the prisoners from taking that short stroll down the obligatory plank and preserving his own secret identity until such a time as he can exact his final revenge.
’The Black Pirate’ was originally photographed in black and white then colorized using Technicolor’s two-strip process to add blue-green and red tinting to the film. For a movie that is usually only screened in black and white, viewing it in its original glory on this DVD is a revelation. Since the film is over seventy years old, the condition of the print used for this transfer is as good as can be expected. There are some scratches and nicks but they never get too distracting.
The accompanying original musical score is presented in a DD 2.0 stereo format. Remember, this is a silent film so the soundtrack consists solely of the rousing music common to films of this type and is not an enveloping audio experience by any means.
Extras include a very insightful commentary track by film historian Rudy Behlmer and a slew of outtakes and behind-the-scenes footage, also narrated by Mr. Behlmer. These extra scenes run as a single chapter and provide a wealth of information on ’The Black Pirate’ and a brief history of the United Artists studio Fairbanks founded with his wife, Mary Pickford, and friend, Charlie Chaplin.
Full of amazing, acrobatic stunts, and featuring a gloriously restored two-color print, ’The Black Pirate’ is a classic silent adventure film that should appeal even to those who are more accustomed to contemporary action blockbusters.