Geoffrey Thorpe, a buccaneer, is hired by Queen Elizabeth I to nag the Spanish Armada. The Armada is waiting for the attack on England and Thorpe surprises them with attacks on their galleons where he shows his skills on the sword.
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Arrested during the Monmouth Rebellion and falsely convicted of treason, Dr. Peter Blood is banished to the West Indies and sold into slavery. In Port Royal, Jamaica the Governor's daughter Arabella Bishop buys him for £10 to spite her uncle, Col. Bishop who owns a major plantation. Life is hard for the men and for Blood as well. By chance he treats the Governor's gout and is soon part of the medical service. He dreams of freedom and when the opportunity strikes, he and his friends rebel taking over a Spanish ship that has attacked the city. Soon, they are the most feared pirates on the seas, men without a country attacking all ships. When Arabella is prisoner, Blood decides to return her to Port Royal only to find that it is under the control of England's new enemy, France. All of them must decide if they are to fight for their new King. Written by
'Captain Blood' is not easily understood by a lot of viewers. Although far from a "love or hate" film, it is frequently characterized as "boring" and "unconvincing" by people who do not understand its subject matter---buccaneers of the Caribbean.
For a lot of people,"pirate" translates as "gruff bearded man with a wooden leg, a parrot on his shoulder, and a vocabulary consisting mostly of four words--"shiver me timbers" and "Aaaarrrrrrrgh!"
In other words their definition of pirate derives from fictional pirate Long John Silver. Captain Blood is a more romanticized figure, and tends to leave fans of buffoonish pirates flat. Peter Blood, the protagonist, is much more influenced by the dashing exploits of Captain Henry Morgan---with a physician's mantle thrown in, formulaically speaking, to give him added genteel qualities.
'Blood' is, for the most part, however, the most realistic of pirate films made to date. Substantially more so than, say, 'Pirates of the Caribbean'--which dazzles with special effects, but displays little understanding of the historical period.
The Jerry Bruckheimer film appears visually influenced by Barbara Cartland novels, and, like most pirate films, depicts Port Royal unrealistically. I cannot vouch for exactly what Port Royal looked like a few centuries ago--considering that it was destroyed once by an earthquake in 1692, and burned a decade later---but it's doubtful that it resembled a quaint cliff side tourist retreat in the Grenadines. In Captain Blood, Port Royal is seen as flat and sandy, with colonial Spanish buildings. This is more authentic; the real-life city was a captured Spanish colony built on a sandpit.
Similarly, in most respects Captain Blood is carefully constructed, and does not resort to the hackneyed and often silly stunts seen in most pirate films.....such as exploding buildings with gunpowder (for no particular reason), searching for buried treasure, Twentieth Century-style fistfights (and karate-kicks), female pirates in every ship's crew, anorexic women in ruffled skirts who kick ass, etc.
In terms of characterization, Captain Blood is a tour-de-force, depicting the practice of white slavery (quite common in the colonial era) and the escape of Blood's slave band to become a crew of buccaneers. He is pursued by his former slave owner, an insolent, hateful man named Bishop, as a matter of personal grudge. As opposed to the usual cops-and-robbers chase scenes with British soldiers we see in most pirate shows. (In real-life Caribbean colonies, privateers and pirates were often ignored by the authorities..if not,in fact,quietly encouraged behind the scenes.)
The ships in Captain Blood also move like real ships (slowly, and by wind power only), and the final battle sequence between Blood's galleon and a French Frigate is extraordinarily vivid, especially considering the special effects used when the original film was made (1935).
As with many pictures from the 1930s, the film is chock-filled with corny characters who provide "color", but in so doing, still leave a more lasting impression than modern-day characters who do nothing but grunt, sweat, and bleed.
This is a stunning and very likable action film--and head and shoulders above all other Hollywood pirate movies.
Perhaps the next Johnny Depp film will get it right, and surpass Captain Blood..but I won't hold my breath waiting for that to happen.
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