European produced Western based on the novel by Friedrich Gerstäcker, set in the 19th century in a town on the banks of the Mississippi River. The area is plagued by a gang of pirates under...
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European produced Western based on the novel by Friedrich Gerstäcker, set in the 19th century in a town on the banks of the Mississippi River. The area is plagued by a gang of pirates under the leadership of Captain Kelly, who live on an island in the river, from where they operate raids on passing steamboats and traders rafts, robbing them of their cargo and murdering the crews. Townspeople and settlers do their best to put an end to the crimes and rid themselves of the pirates and their daring leader.
Made in 1963, this may well have been following up on the success of the first Winnetou-Shatterhand film, as there is a scene between star Hansjorg Felmy and his Indian chief friend that plays a lot like Lex Barker and Pierre Brice. In any event, Brad Harris is not the main hero here(and in this English version, his last name is NOT Cook--in fact, his last name is written in the sand at one point, so it can't be cook in the German version either!), but a young man accused of a killing he didn't commit. Horst Frank is once again convincing as a snivelling, oily crook, Colonel Kelly, a disgraced former military officer. Frank tries to deceive the local Indians and turn them against the local white population, and he also organizes the "pirates" of the title. While lacking the sweep and grandeur and the beauty of the "Old Shatterhand" series, and featuring an "oom-pah" musical score that conjurs up nothing West of Bonn or Stuttgart, the film is of historical interest because it pre-dates FISTFUL OF DOLLARS and thus the filmmakers were not working in a well-established tradition. It also features second-unit direction from Gianfranco Parolini, who would later pair up Brad Harris and Tony Kendall (here also in a small role) in many successful action films. Parolini's colorful, eccentric, circus-like style is briefly in evidence here and there, as in some action scenes we see movement at different depths within the frame, but there's not enough of his oddball touches to give the film much of the "Frank Kramer" style. Overall, if you have watched dozens of Eurowesterns and enjoyed the Winnetou series, you'll find this interesting as a historical curio. And Brad Harris fans will enjoy him in his first Eurowestern role. There's probably no need for anyone else to seek this out--if you haven't seen a German western before, watch one of the Lex Barker or Stewart Granger films based on Karl May novels instead. Fortunately, the copy of this film floating around is letterboxed, although it's a grainy PAL transfer.
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