Burt Lancaster plays a pirate with a taste for intrigue and acrobatics who involves himself in the goings on of a revolution in the Caribbean in the late 1700s. A light hearted adventure ...
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Sgt. Mike Kincaid of the French Foreign Legion learns, from a Riff prisoner, that an attack will soon be made by the villainous Hussin on the Legion's outpost of Tarfa. Kincaid volunteers ... See full summary »
Burt Lancaster plays a pirate with a taste for intrigue and acrobatics who involves himself in the goings on of a revolution in the Caribbean in the late 1700s. A light hearted adventure involving prison breaks, an oddball Scientist, sailing ships, naval fights, and tons of swordplay. Written by
John Vogel <email@example.com>
Co-producers Burt Lancaster and Harold Hecht were not fans of the witch hunts then taking place of "communists" in Hollywood, led by the House Un-American Activities Committee. This movie was a sly slap at those activities, starting with the title, "The Crimson Pirate," during the "red scare" of the fifties, and continuing with the plot line, of a government denying the rights of the people. They got away with it, as almost nobody noticed the political content of a pirate comedy-adventure movie. See more »
At the beginning of the film the ship taken by pirates with the ruse of stricken ship scurvy. Although referred to as a British ship, the flag that brings (which incidentally seems an invention) has a section of the arms of Castile and rather Spanish colors: gold and red. See more »
It's impossible to recapture the absolute bliss of seeing this film for
the first time, in all its impudence and style; but watching it yet again this afternoon, I found a broad grin back on my face within minutes. Burt Lancaster's cocky Captain Vallo -- golden-haired, silver-tongued, and sporting a fine taste in trademark crimson trousers -- is a Technicolour pirate straight out of the pages of legend, and it's a toss-up as to whether it's more fun watching him dazzle and bamboozle his way through the ranks of the dastardly Spaniards, every sea-rover's traditional foe, or seeing him taken down a richly-deserved peg or two when events don't go quite as anticipated. If Vallo had it all his own way, he'd be insufferable; but fortunately for the film, circumstances -- and the script -- conspire to unseat his schemes, with results both hilarious and touching.
Lancaster and Nick Cravat play off their old acrobatic routines against each other, separately and together, in a virtuoso display perfectly integrated into the action of the film. In "The Flame and the Arrow", the acrobatics felt shoe-horned in to show off the star's abilities. Here they develop naturally from the conventions of the genre, and the grace of the big man and pugnacity of the little one make for a gifted double-act. In the role of the loyal mute Ojo (as the leader of their rebel captors observes dryly, 'this one can't talk and the other can't stop talking!') Cravat repeats his eloquent, quickfire mime from the earlier production, providing the last 'word' for the film's ending and comic moments throughout.
The character of the first mate 'Humble' Bellows, with his Quakerish speech and rigid adherence to the old ways, is also a triumph. Implacably opposed to his captain's flashy plans for a double- and triple-cross on the grounds that it's more like business practice than honest piracy, and unmoved by Vallo's gift of the gab, his doom-saying has the unpalatable habit of seeming to come true as one complication after another arises. Yet he has a stubborn integrity of his own, and his loyalty is to the ship's company where Vallo's veers like a weathercock. He is a complex character we cannot in a way help but admire.
But above all, the essence of "The Crimson Pirate" is that it's *very*, *very* *silly*. Gloriously silly. This isn't about realism -- this is comic-strip stuff, where battle consists of tossing your enemies overboard into the water, laying them out cold with a belaying-pin, or stacking them up one by one on the floor of the captain's cabin; where a man with a sword can duel a man with a swinging block on the end of a piece of rope, and an athletic fugitive can escape down narrow streets by using awnings as trampolines and washing-poles as parallel bars. Like "Galaxy Quest", this film is both an affectionate spoof of its genre and a gripping contribution to that genre in its own right.
This is Adventure with a capital 'A', with a colourful unrepentant rogue of a hero, with devious Dons, thickwitted soldiery, heroic rebels, treachery, cruelty and gallantry against the odds - and generally an unexpected laugh around every corner. It's utterly impossible, of course, but -- believe only half of what you see... if that!
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