Film (1952). Hecht-Lancaster Productions/Warner Brothers. Produced by Harold Hecht. Directed by Robert Siodmak. Written by Roland Kibbee. Cast includes Eva Bartok, Leslie Bradley, Nick Cravat, James Hayter, Burt Lancaster, Frederick Leister and Torin Thatcher. 105 minutes. Colour.
In the late eighteenth century, the pirate Captain Vallo (Lancaster), also known as The Crimson Pirate, captures a Royal Navy vessel bound for the fictional Caribbean Island of Cobra with Baron José Gruda (Bradley) aboard. Gruda is to put down a rebellion underway on Cobra, led by El Libre (Leister) and his daughter Consuelo (Bartok); he offers Vallo large sums to assist him. Vallo at first intends to sell the captured weapons from the naval vessel, then sell information about El Libre to Gruda, and so make a handsome profit. On meeting Consuelo, however, he falls in love with her and changes his plans accordingly. A series of quasi-comical captures and escapes follows, involving Vallo, Consuelo and Vallo's lieutenant Ojo (Cravat); much of this action makes excellent use of Lancaster's genuine acrobatic skills. Though double-crossed by his own first mate Humble Bellows (Thatcher), Lancaster finally succeeds in defeating Gruda and his forces with the aid of Scientist Professor Elihu Prudence (Hayter) and his sometimes anachronistic Inventions which anticipate Steampunk sf. These include a hot-air Balloon, tanks, and a submarine. Predictably, the conclusion sees Vallo and Consuelo set to live happily ever after.
Lancaster and his friend Cravat made a number of films together over the years; The Crimson Pirate was one of the most popular. In some ways it feels like a nautical version of the Television series The Wild, Wild West (1965-1969). Robert Siodmak was the brother of author Curt Siodmak. [GSt]
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