Archive for The Black Pirate

The Sunday Intertitle: Sunday in the Park with Doug

Posted in FILM with tags , , , on July 27, 2014 by dcairns


That black rectangle to the right of frame is an intertitle! At Kelvingrove Bandstand, Glasgow, I was viewing THE BLACK PIRATE — on a small screen in distracting daylihgt with low resolution and in the wrong ratio — but to compensate we had brilliant live music by the Jane Gardner trio. THE BLACK PIRATE never gets dull for a second, but you did have added visual interest, because during the exciting bits you could watch drummer Hazel Morrison pounding her pagan skins in best BEN HUR slave galley fashion.

Another source of intertitles — too bad I can’t copy and paste them here — is the Library of Congress’s Flickr page for unidentified movies. Head over and see if you can supply helpful info about the dates, titles, or cast of any of the films sampled. The images are often surreal, beautiful or just puzzling, and the intertitles are poetic in the extreme ~


“Brutal Bill ~ He would kill a man for a dime and give nine cents change. GLEN CAVENDAR.”

“We’ll make fake bears of Pete and Jake with our bearskin rugs.”

“LOOK, Father! See the pretty wood nymphs dancing in the snow.”

“Mrs Smith — a horsewoman by profession but a blonde by choice.”

“One quart later. (An Aladdin Comedy)”


“The stenog’s regular meal ticket was on hand.”

It’s not impossible that you could be of help here — I myself identified Warner Oland in one frame, although admittedly two other people had already done so.

Black Piracy

Posted in FILM, MUSIC with tags , , on July 25, 2014 by dcairns


Accidentally posted twice yesterday because this endless summer is making me lose track of time. I am shocked — shocked! — to realize today is Friday and I’m off to Glasgow for an Important Meeting and to see Douglas Fairbanks as THE BLACK PIRATE with live music by buddy Jane Gardner. A free outdoor show. 7.30 at Kelvingrove Bandstand, maybe I’ll see you there? Match thighs with the mighty Doug!

The Sunday Intertitle: From Bad to Norse

Posted in FILM, MUSIC with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 25, 2010 by dcairns

A MOVING intertitle for you today, courtesy of Roy William Neill’s THE VIKING, a soundie filmed in two-strip Technicolor and produced by the inventor of the process, Dr. Kalmus.

Vikings attack suddenly!

While two-strip worked brilliantly on horror movies like DR X and THE MYSTERY OF THE WAX MUSEUM, its limited palette and odd colour values are perhaps not wholly suited to a swashbuckling adventure like this: they attempt to add panache and glamour, but the effect is always slightly OFF. (I haven’t seen Doug Fairbanks’ THE BLACK PIRATE in colour so I don’t know if that succeeds more.) The cyan skies are hallucinatory picture-postcard backings, and the magenta vikings all look rather sunburned — which very possibly they were, running around bare-chested in what is clearly California.

We also get a tinny recorded score and sound effects — some manly singing, and the clash of cutlery when sword-fighting is introduced. I love soundies, because there’s no sense of the soundtrack being an anachronistic attempt at recreating the original effect. It is the original effect. I was a little upset to hear the composer of the new SUNRISE score badmouthing the original, which to me is exceedingly beautiful, flaws and all. I’m very glad both scores have been made available, so I can unhesitatingly choose the Movietone version every time.

Pauline Starke (WAMPAS Baby Star of 1922) is really good — but this movie preceded a precipitous decline into obscurity.

Have been thinking about, and looking at the works of, Roy William Neill since I posted about BLACK ANGEL. Every one of his films seems to contain moments of visual beauty far beyond what the genre content demands. The thrust-in on the screaming Saxon lady, with thrust-in on intertitle, is his most extravagant moment here, but his best visual poetry is usually b&w. Perhaps he’s best described as a Michael Curtiz who never made it into big pictures (THE VIKING may be as close as he got). Curtiz himself has a reduced reputation because he doesn’t quite fit the mold of auteur: he couldn’t give two craps about consistent personal themes, he’s purely occupied with a personal conception of cinematic beauty that’s expressed through light and shade and movement and design. But Curtiz obviously scores major points by having made movies like CASABLANCA. Not so Neill.

In early ’30s Curtiz movies like THE KENNEL MURDER CASE and THE CASE OF THE CURIOUS BRIDE, we see him working with modest material, imbuing it with sparkle and zip. These films are hugely enjoyable and none the worse for not being quite A-picture material. Such was Neill’s playground for most of his career, and he seems to have been very happy to be there. Anyone who’d make eleven Sherlock Holmes pictures, after all, does not seem to be hugely ambitious or restless. Maybe having had his shot at the big time back in 1928, he was relaxed and content enough just to enjoy the cinematic possibilities of whatever entertainments the studio passed his way, or maybe also he just genuinely loved light hokum and devoted his talents to it wholeheartedly.


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