The Crimson Pirate (1952)

The Crimson Pirate (1952)


Burt Lancaster (Brute Force) plays Captain Vallo, an eighteenth century pirate known across the Caribbean Sea as “The Crimson Pirate,” who gets involved in a dangerous plan to free a political prisoner. He is ably assisted by his ever faithful mute sidekick, Lieutenant Ojo, played by Nick Cravat (The Flame and the Arrow).

Reaction & Thoughts:

“Remember, in a pirate ship, in pirate waters, in a pirate world, ask no questions. Believe only what you see. No, believe half of what you see.”

Splendid action-adventure, a delightfully tongue-in-cheek homage to classic pirate movies. Full of silly jokes, funny slapstick, perilous stunts and romance. In other words, you have to be a total “Scrooge” not enjoy it all. The Crimson Pirate is clearly the inspiration for Disney’s pirate franchise, starring Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow. The original is ultimately unsurpassable in technique and execution.

The Crimson Pirate moves at a breakneck pace, wasting absolutely no time. There is no fat in the script by Roland Kibbee (Vera Cruz). Robert Siodmak’s direction, who is mostly known for his superb film noirs — The Killers (1946), The Dark Mirror (1946) and Criss Cross (1949) —  seems to be saying, “Forget logic and let’s have fun.”

It’s evident that this was a costly production: The Crimson Pirate looks fantastic from every angle. It was lavishly photographed in Technicolor by Otto Heller (Peeping Tom and The Ipcress File). Some scenes were filmed inside a studio, but most of the movie was shot on location in Italy. The rousing music score was written by English composer William Alwyn (Odd Man Out and Shake Hands with the Devil).

Burt Lancaster, a former circus acrobat, wows the viewers with a series of exciting acrobatic tricks performed alongside his real-life pal Nick Cravat, who was equally adept at wall climbing. Douglas Fairbanks Sr. (The Black Pirate) and Errol Flynn (The Sea Hawk) are the actors most associated with swashbuckling adventures, but Lancaster surpasses them all through sheer audacity — the actor did his own stunts!

The cast also includes Torin Thatcher (Witness for the Prosecution) as pirate Humble Bellows, Eva Bartok (David Lean’s Madeleine) as Lancaster’s love interest, Consuelo, and Leslie Bradley (The Conqueror) as Baron Gruda. Sir Christopher Lee (The Lord of the Rings) and Dana Wynter (The List of Adrian Messenger) have small roles.

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

The Crimson Pirate has always been a childhood favorite. It’s a classic — one of the best action films of all time, perhaps only rivaled by Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) and The Road Warrior (1981). It’s also a perfect family film. This is the definition of a “fun movie” and therefore strongly recommended! Color, 105 minutes, Not Rated.

2 responses to “The Crimson Pirate (1952)

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