HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: The Black Swan
HTS Overall Score:63
Everyone loves a good pirate story, whether it be adult or child. Who doesn’t want to sail away on the Spanish Main, living a life of indulgence and freedom? The freedom to go as you please, live away from the cares of modern life and blow ships out of the water for treasure extraordinaire. Of course we know it’s all a fantasy. Real pirates aren’t as chivalrous towards ladies as the movies portray and are usually a miserable lot who live in poverty just scraping by till the next robbery on the high seas. As grim as that may sound it still doesn’t stop us from creating a lovely fantasy about how we WISH pirates were, as you can tell from the lucrative profits from films, novels and auditory stories about swashbuckling privateers. I can say for a fact that I’m not immune to that fantasy myself. I own a great many pirate films and I do say that I get swept up in the adventure and romance every time. I guess it’s the little boy in me that never grew up.
The great captain Morgan (Laird Cregar) has finally hung up his hat. No longer a pirate, hunted by both Spanish and English alike, he has gone civilized and been knighted as the next governor of Jamaica. That is as long as he can clean up the Caribbean of pirates. Calling together all the captains who fought under his command to a meeting, he invites them to become his advisors and to give them full pardons if they come with him to Jamaica. As you can guess this causes quite a stir. Some of the captains are willing to go with and lead a privileged life of honesty, but several of the captains, including one Captain Leech (George Sanders) refuse to give up their lives on the open sea. This causes a rift where half of the pirates are with Leech and the other half now have to hunt the men they fought and bled with.
Morgan’s second in command, one Jamie Waring (Tyrone Power) has a bit of a hard time adjusting to life as a civilized man. He’s always been the rough and tumble pirate, the one who sneers at danger and charges head on into a fight. Now he has to learn to act like, or at TRY to act like a gentleman. To make matters worse, he has fallen for the daughter of the previous governor of Jamaica, leading to some rather strenuous relations. Jamie doesn’t like that he’s fallen for her and she doesn’t like him AT ALL. However, when does that stop a dashing your pirate? Jamie now has to root out the pirates in the Caribbean AND win over the ex-governors daughter AND stop a conspiracy. Plus of course, keeping his head off the chopping block.
The film is an entertaining little romp, but that’s about it. Some of the sub plots are never brought to fruition and this one seemed a bit choppy on the editing. We all know that Maureen O’Hara is to fall for Jamie, but the manner and speed in which it went down even made my eyebrows raise a bit. I could say that this was in a day before audiences required more complex plots, but then you see films like “The Big Parade” or “Call of the Wild” which are earlier films and I just have to say, what could have been. The romantic angle was done decently enough but for a film about pirates it was a bit light on the action. Still a decent watch, but really for genre fans at this point.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=14013[/img]Unfortunately “The Black Swan” doesn't look nearly as good as some of the other films of its time. I blame it mostly on the cinematography. The films is show with a very little show of natural lighting, giving it a VERY dim tone. Some outdoor scenes look fine, but the indoor scenes look unnaturally dark and the blacks tend to get crushed a bit. The commentary does shed some light upon it and makes note that the director chose it that way on purpose, but it does make for a dreary looking pictures. The colors are bright enough though, nice crisp reds and greens and blues, although the facial tones looked a little overly pink. It’s not a great picture, but it is more than an upgrade from the old DVD, and the detail is there to prove it. I just wish there was a bit more lighting to show all that detail that’s hiding in the shadows.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=14014[/img]The audio is decent for a monorail soundtrack. Being from the 30s it has limitations of it’s time with the audio sounding a bit boxy and tinny at times. However the dialogue is usually very clear and crisp without any real imperfections other than occasionally fading as an actor turned away from the microphone (back then using multiple boom mikes wasn’t done as often). With such a simplistic sound track it’s hard to notice any real improvements from the DVD but if you listen to them carefully it’s there. A little more fullness to the vocals especially. If you go in with expectations that this was a cheap movie even by 1930’s standards you’ll be more than pleased.
• Commentary by Rudy Behlmer and Maureen O'Hara
• Theatrical Trailer
“The Black Swan” isn't actually one of the better Tyrone Powers films. He was a fun actor and I always loved his portrayal as Zorro back in the day, but here he seems a bit off. He was a ladies man actor and the wooing scenes are really where he shines, but it’s hard to see him in the swashbuckling mode without having to do a double take. A fun movie, that’s worth a look for classic cinema enthusiasts. The video and audio is a definite upgrade to the DVD, but nothing that will wow you and the special features are grim to say the least. If it's available to rent I'd say check it out, otherwise there are quite a few other pirate movies to toss money at.
Starring: Tyrone Power, Maureen O'Hara, Thomas Mitchell
Directed by: Henry King
Written by: Ben Hecht, Seton I. Miller
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA Mono, French, Spanish DD Mono
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Runtime: 87 minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: Dec 3rd, 2013
Buy The Black Swan Blu-ray on Amazon
Recommendation: Buy It!
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