5 May 2011 | Bunuel1976
RAGE OF THE BUCCANEERS (Mario Costa, 1961) **
The presence of two Hollywood veterans (dashing hero Ricardo Montalban and sleek villain Vincent Price) only slightly elevates ¬¬this otherwise low-brow pirate romp. The handling is thoroughly routine (coming from this journeyman director, one could hardly have expected more!) and the plot complications (involving action, romance and intrigue) exceedingly predictable. This does not mean that the film is not (mildly) enjoyable while it is on – yet what pleasure the viewing may have elicited from this swashbuckler fan was dissipated by the panning-and-scanning of the original Widescreen ratio
which was so severe that, at one point, it seemed like Montalban was giving mobilization orders to the heroine's maid rather than his underling (who had been completely cropped out of the shot)! Incidentally, the print I acquired sported a different title to the (admittedly meaningless) one it is known by in the U.S., namely GORDON, THE BLACK PIRATE (that is to say, a literal translation of the Italian one); watching it, I was reminded of the similar, likewise middling and contemporaneous Steve Reeves vehicle MORGAN, THE PIRATE.
Montalban gets to do a fair amount of acrobatics throughout (even ripping off Douglas Fairbanks' legendary adoption of a dagger to slide down the sails!): in fact, the very first scene finds him engaged, bare-chested, in a duel with a rebellious patch-eyed associate who subsequently becomes his sworn enemy and even ingratiates himself with dastardly and ambitious Governor's Secretary Price (the real force behind the human trafficking going on in the area) – when the hero dons the guise of a Cuban slave trader to try and upset the villain's schemes, his old nemesis gets back at him by blowing Gordon's cover! Price, then, has plans not only to oust his superior from power but on his daughter as well; she, on the other hand, unsurprisingly falls for The Black Pirate (by the way, there were at least 2 other "Euro-Cult" efforts by this name, not forgetting the 1926 Silent classic from which that afore-mentioned Fairbanks stunt was borrowed to begin with, as is the swimming en masse precipitating the raid on an enemy ship!)
but the heroine has competition from feisty, earthy Liana Orfei (something of a genre stalwart, this is her most sizeable part of a recently-viewed trio), yet is it the latter who sacrifices herself when realizing Gordon actually prefers the upper-class girl. By the way, Price's own fate is curiously left hanging (i.e. not properly resolved) at the climax!