The Black Pirate ★★★

It's hard for us as modern audience members to have a full grasp on what made a star a Star in silent-era Hollywood... then you see a performance like Douglas Fairbanks' in this, and it all becomes clear. His sheer charisma is completely ageless, his agility and comic sensibility -- mugging as he does for the invisible crowd watching -- couldn't be more engaging. The film's hackneyed action-adventure story (of a vengeful hero saving a princess from ruthless pirates who've murdered his father) is built around him and his outrageous, well-designed stunt sequences, and that's just fine; the sheer straightforward entertainment value of all this serves to prove that the virtues of the popular films of the '20s can sometimes translate as well as the unquestioned artistic triumphs. That said, I found the two-strip Technicolor hideously ugly and have trouble believing it didn't have that effect at the time. I wager a black & white print would look less jarring now, though I understand the reasons for the historical interest in the process.

Nathan liked this review