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The Crimson Pirate Review

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A wry, somewhat acrobatic pirate, Captain Vallo, discovers there is his nefarious double-dealing on the high seas, and becomes embroiled in rebellion against the colonial government in the Caribbean.

★★★★

Something of a cross between parody and tribute to the dash of Errol Flynn, particularly in Captain Blood (even the title was echoed), this delightfully upbeat, cartoonish adventure story was the template for the tone and style of Pirates Of The Caribbean. In many ways it is a much better film. There is a more striking, believable gusto to Burt Lancaster’s swaggering Captain Vallo. This is a rogue in love with the amoral splendour of his life, his dreamy grin is as wide as the ocean.

Partnered by the mute Ojo, (the gypsy-looking Nick Cravat, who lands punchlines and one-liners with by pulling derisive faces), they are about to find their carefree approach being pulled up with a dose of responsibility. Naturally, given the era this movie hails from, this will arrive in a very comely shape of a good lady. Eva Bartock’s Consuela is the daughter of the revolutionary leader, somewhat obviously names El Libre (Fredrick Lesiter, all stoic cause and righteousness), and will force the inconstant Vallo to mend his way, or, at the very least, bend them a little.

Robert Siodmark utilises the heightened buzz of the pirate genre to play the film close to outright comedy, skirting the serious points of the plot as swiftly as possible while the action springs and rattles with more style than evident danger. Lancaster was a gymnast before he became an actor, as was Cravat, and their spring-heeled antics harken towards the slapstick of silent cinema rather than the heroic verve of Flynn’s swashbuckling; Lancaster never feels noble rather than enthusiastic. A balletic double-act that never let the film stick in its shoes as they twirl like monkeys through knots of rigging and about the decks of the glorious galleons.

It is a breeze to watch, lacking the demands of real drama, but in its fabulous settings and wry tribute to the pleasures of pure escapism is truly a minor classic.

Gleeful and energetic pirate adventure with Burt Lancaster swinging through rigging and chandeliers.

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