Combustible Celluloid
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With: Douglas Fairbanks, Billie Dove, Anders Randolf, Donald Crisp, Tempe Pigott, Sam De Grasse, Charles Stevens, Charles Belcher, E.J. Ratcliffe
Written by: Douglas Fairbanks, Jack Cunningham
Directed by: Albert Parker
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Running Time: 88
Date: 03/08/1926

The Black Pirate (1926)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

High Seas

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Douglas Fairbanks was a seemingly carefree, dazzlingly casual performer who grinned as if he was having the time of his life (and he probably was). In real life, he was a superior businessman, forming his own production company as well as joining Chaplin, Griffith and his wife Mary Pickford to form United Artists. He wrote his own scenarios under an assumed name and spaced his films out to one a year so as to build up public appetite.

After an elaborate series of hit swashbucklers like The Mark of Zorro (1920), The Three Musketeers (1921), Robin Hood (1922), and The Thief of Bagdad (1924), Fairbanks moved on to this, The Black Pirate, which Kino Video has newly released on a dazzling Blu-Ray for 2010.

For this film, Fairbanks scaled back, making it his shortest and least extravagant. Instead he concentrated on the use of two-strip Technicolor, which was still a novelty. A lesser filmmaker would have simply saturated his film with it, but Fairbanks carefully layered the colors to better depict the story. The only original tale of his hit films, it has Fairbanks as a sailor out to avenge the death of his father by joining a band of pirates and bringing them down from the inside.

Historian Rudy Behlmer provides a commentary track and narrates 19 minutes of outtakes. There are two different scores, plus a "talkie" version (narrated by Douglas Fairbanks Jr.), plus a still gallery, and 29 more minutes of outtakes (new to this release)

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