Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., swashes his buckle in silent film classic The Black Pirate (1926), projecting as a charming & atheltic a rogue as cinema has ever seen.
Even for the silent era every scenario was a cliche, drawn from boys' fiction including everything from walking the plank to seeking the treasure chest.
But some of it must've seemed pretty brutal for its day. Though it occurs off-stage & left to imagination, there's a sequence with a pirate's victim swallowing a valuable ring, getting his belly slit so a pirate can retrieve the ring as booty.
This was a high-end action film in its day. The quality & expense is impressive even in the 21st Century, with big ornate & intricate sets & costumes, delightful faces of character actors, & thrilling fight choreography.
Fairbanks plays the only survivor of a pirate-scuttled ship. He vowed revenge against the pirates who killed his father.
But to get off the island on which he's been marooned, he must himself become a pirate. He rises quickly in the pirates' esteem after winning a bet that he could take a merchant ship single-handed from a row-boat.
He's now in the difficult position of posing always as a pirate among pirates while protecting potential victims of piracy.
A woman on board the merchant ship, Isobel (Billie Dove), convinces his homely, dangerous shipmates that she's a princess worth a ransom unmolested, worth rather less despoiled. Our Black Pirate knows it's a ruse, but a good one in which he participates, having additionally fallen for her from frist sight.
In the end it's revealed that the Black Pirate is a duke, while the pretend-princess turns out to be an actual princess all along. So guess who gets to live happily ever after without crossing the social barrier.
There are some absurdities like telling time on a sundial on the poopdeck as though a ship always faces the same exact direction & doesn't rock, but even goofs add to the vintage charms of a wonderful old movie. The appeal of Fairbanks is evident in every scene.
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