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The Black Pirate [Blu-ray]
(Albert Parker, 1926)
Review by Gary Tooze
Theatrical: United Artists
Region: FREE! (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)
Disc Size: 47,496,912,591 bytes
Feature Size: 24,803,094,528 bytes
Video Bitrate: 30.04 Mbps
Case: Standard Blu-ray case inside sturdy cardboard case
Release date: December 14th, 2010
Aspect ratio: 1.33:1 matted to 1.78
Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video
LPCM Audio English 2304 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2304 kbps / 24-bit
Dolby Digital Audio English 320 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 320 kbps
Commentary: Dolby Digital Audio English 320 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 320 kbps
• Commentary byfilm historian Ruby Behlmer
•'The Black Pirate (Talkie) - (1:15:12 in HD!)
• Narrated Outtakes - Behind the Scenes with Rudy Behlmer (19:05 - HD!)
• Other Outtakes (29:05 in HD!)
Description: In the first grand-scale epic shot entirely in Technicolor, the sole survivor of a ship pillaged by buccaneers poses as the mysterious Black Pirate and infiltrates the nest of bandits. Michel (silver screen legend Douglas Fairbanks) mounts an elaborate ploy to recover the brigands' treasure, reclaim the ship and rescue the divine Princess (Billie Dove) held captive there. This beautiful edition available exclusively on Blu-ray has been remastered in High Definition from the 35mm restoration negative.
The Black Pirate was hailed in 1926 as the return of the Douglas Fairbanks who'd breezed through several peppy comedies... before starring in lavish costume epics like Robin Hood (1922) and Thief of Bagdad (1924). The story involves a young nobleman (Fairbanks) whose father is killed by pirates. He vows to avenge his dad's death by becoming a buccaneer himself and routing out the villains. Along the way, he rescues damsel-in-distress Billie Dove (likewise of noble birth) and engages in a few bloody duels with the swarthy likes of Sam De Grasse and Anders Randolph. Charlie Stevens, a grandson of American Indian chief Geronimo -- and whom Fairbanks regarded as a lucky charm -- appears in several tiny roles.
With its excellent titles and wondrous colored scenes this picture seems to have a Barrieque motif that has been aged in Stevensonian wood. Just as Albert Parker, its director, said, the grouping of the characters the artistic lighting and the prismatic shades make one think that it is something that had been discovered in a dark cellar, and after being polished and varnished to give it a satin gloss, it was shown to the public. The unrivalled beauty of the different episodes is mindful of the paintings of old masters, which is not so astonishing considering that Mr. Fairbanks had on his staff Carl Oscar Borg, the Swedish artist and other experts, including Dwight Franklin, an authority on pirates, and Robert Nichols, an Oxford poet, who is an intimate friend of Sir James M. Barrie. Three other important film features were previously produced wholly in natural colors.
Image : NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.
Considering all factors - The Black Pirate looks highly impressive on Blu-ray from Kino. The two-strip Technicolor - which was original - produces sepia pinks, maroons and greens that tend to fade 'in and out' often changing skin tones. Film preservationist extraordinaire David Shepard has done the color-balancing (from the original negative) and it can only do so much. From 1926 The Black Pirate may be the oldest feature film to reach 1080P status. We've covered Borzage's 7th Heaven, Murnau's Sunrise and Keaton's The General from the following year, 1927 - all delightfully now on Blu-ray. If it is not the oldest - it is the oldest color film. This is dual-layered and although much of the space is taken by HD supplements - the 1.5 hour feature is supported with a high bitrate. This is quite a curiosity to view. Obviously the image quality is at the mercy of the source and what restoration was done. Despite the predictable weaknesses of age (contrast fluctuations) it is, overall, surprisingly consistent and the visuals are very pleasing. I'd say that any work done here was quite successful. Silent era fans should be happy with The The Black Pirate's Blu-ray appearance. Big thumbs up.
NOTE: Sent in email: 'I wanted to thank you for the review of the Blu-ray release on THE BLACK PIRATE and to just correct one small point. While David Shepard did oversee the color balance and production of the original release of this film on standard DVD by Kino, it was Kino's Bret Wood who handled everything on this Blu-ray release, with the exception of the outtakes from the Library of Congress, which were done in house there.' (Thanks Douris!)
CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION
There are two 2.0 channel linear PCM options available. We get a clear and lifting Robert Israel conducted score from 1996 (the original Mortimer Wilson score). It sounds great and is a perfect compliment to the onscreen action. The other is a Lee Erwin organ score and is quite nice for fans of that instrument. The latter option was a bit more reminiscent of what one might have heard in theatrically - yes, almost 85 years ago. The English-language intertitles appear original and there are no subtitles offered.My Momitsu has identified it as being a region FREE disc playable on Blu-ray machines worldwide.
Kino released this on DVD back in 2004 - and while some of the supplements are duplicated - there are also new additions.Rudy Behlmer gives good commentary for mild to serious films fans. He delivers his astute knowledge in a pleasant and professional format. New to this Blu-ray edition we get Fairbanks The Black Pirate in a black and white "Talkie" version with intertitles removed an replaced with narration and some effect sounds. This is also in 1080P but looks very dark. Those interested may still wish to sample. There are 20-minutes of 'Narrated Outtakes' with Behlmer again leading the way. We see some deleted segments and what might be considered 'bloopers'. New again for this release are 30-minutes more of Outtakes but un-narrated and without production audio. Lastly there is a 31-stills gallery.
December 16th, 2010
About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 3500 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.
Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who
focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I
find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.
Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD
Gary W. Tooze
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