The Crimson Pirate

The Crimson Pirate (1952)
Warner Home Video
Cast: Burt Lancaster
Extras: Text Supplements

1952 was a grand year for fans of the Hollywood swashbuckler. ’Scaramouche, ’ ’The Master of Ballantrae, ’ and ’The Crimson Pirate, ’ all debuted on the silver screen and now Warner Brothers was released all three classic films on DVD.

In ’The Crimson Pirate’ Burt Lancaster stars as Captain Vallo, a pirate in the finest swashbuckling tradition who woos the lady, defeats the dastardly villain, and swings from his ship’s rigging with great aplomb.

When Captain Vallo captures a Spanish galleon laden with treasure and guns he’s torn between selling the firearms to a rebel leader or turning the rebels over to the Spanish for a reward. Complicating matters is the fact that he falls in love with the rebel leader’s beautiful daughter Consuelo (Eva Bartok). Not surprisingly he follows his heart and leads the rebels against the Spanish with the help of his colorful pirate crew, a submarine, and even a hot-air balloon.

The antics here are very much tongue-in-cheek with every actor hamming it up to the extreme — none more than Burt Lancaster himself with his dazzling grin on permanent display. His real-life boyhood pal and circus partner Nick Cravat plays the mute sidekick Ojo and the two former acrobats really go all out performing their own complicated stunts.

While the story itself is pretty silly, the infectious enthusiasm of the cast and the very real feats of physical prowess on display make ’The Crimson Pirate’ a rollicking adventure film that’s sure to please fans of the genre.

Presented in its original <$PS,full frame> format, ’The Crimson Pirate’ arrives on DVD in good condition. The beautiful Technicolor image really shines with the vibrant hues on full display (Burt Lancaster’s colorful tights are enough to make your eyes water). The image is surprisingly sharp with only a very fine film grain evident. Halo effects are also kept to a minimum which is surprising given the number of high contrast shipboard scenes. There are more physical blemishes than I would have liked but they do come and go with only a handful of scenes looking the worse for wear. Black levels are decent enough for a movie of this vintage although the day-for-night filming technique also helps out with the nighttime scenes. As the title implies, ’The Crimson Pirate’ is one colorful film and in that regards the video presentation is excellent.

Audio is presented in an English <$DD,Dolby Digital> 1.0 Mono mix. The soundtrack is fairly solid for the most part with only a bit of distortion evident. Of course there isn’t much dynamic range, no surround use, and no LFE but the mix on the DVD is true to the original source materials so audio purists should be pleased.

Extras include cast and crew lists as well as a few pages of text discussing Burt Lancaster’s life-long friendship with co-star Nick Cravat. The lack of a theatrical trailer is a real shame as the other films released in this series all feature multiple trailers.

It’s hard to believe that ’The Crimson Pirate’ was directed by none other than Robert Siodmak whose earlier works ’Son of Dracula,’ ’The Killers,’ and ’The Spiral Staircase’ would seem to have little in common with this light-hearted romp. Fortunately, the director is just as capable at handling an action comedy as he is a noir thriller. The overriding directive here seems to have been to let Burt and Nick do what they do best and just sit back and enjoy the show.

’The Crimson Pirate’ is a grand swashbuckling adventure and Warner Brothers’ new DVD release features a solid enough audio/video presentation but the lack of even the meagerest bonus features is disappointing.