More than seventy years before Jerry Bruckheimer and Johnny Depp made Pirates fun again, Tyrone Power became a star, beloved for his swashbuckling roles in films such as The Mask of Zorro, Blood and Sand, and The Black Swan. Recently released on Blu-ray as part of 20th Century Fox’s Voice Your Choice program, wherein readers were given the opportunity to vote on the titles Fox would upgrade to high definition, The Black Swan isn’t a perfect film, but it sure is a lot of fun.
After a long struggle, England and Spain have finally made peace. In that spirit, infamous pirate Henry Morgan (Laird Cregar) has decided to make some changes. Having been knighted, he’s promised to rid the Atlantic of other pirates. As a reward, he is made Governor of Jamaica, but neither the lawful residents nor pirates trust him. Morgan offers his former comrades a pardon and a hundred acres of land a piece if they hang up their Jolly Rogers once and for all. If they refuse the offer, they will face the hangman’s noose. Settling into life as a bureaucrat, Morgan employs several of his former colleagues in crime to rule the island and wipe out the remaining pirates roaming the Caribbean. His chief lieutenants consist of Jamie Waring (Power) and Tommy Blue (Thomas Mitchell), a curmudgeonly fellow who holds lifelong allegiance to Waring.
Most pirates, among them Captain Billy Leech (George Sanders) and Wogan (Anthony Quinn), view Morgan as nothing more than a spy for the king. Jamaican citizens are even more suspicious, not convinced that Morgan and his men can ever really give up their wicked ways. Convinced that Morgan must be deposed, the citizens are willing to do whatever it takes, even if it means feeding information to Billy Leech about well stocked ships ripe for raiding, so be it. Despite Morgan’s efforts to stop the raids, all his attempts have been foiled.
Facing calls for impeachment, Morgan sends Jamie after Leech in a final, desperate attempt to show himself worthy of the governorship. Waring is up to the job, but he has to see Lady Margaret (Maureen O’Hara) first. It bad enough that Morgan replaced her father as governor and that Waring is now sleeping in her former bedchamber, but now Margaret is forced onto a ship by a man she finds repulsive. To top it off, it just happens to be the eve of her wedding! But alas, Waring finally has finally captured the woman of his dreams. When a few secrets are revealed, Waring just might find himself in more trouble than ever before…
More than seventy years after its release, The Black Swan remains a fun swashbuckler. Boasting a screenplay by legendary Ben Hecht among others, the story is uncluttered and action oriented. With exciting swordplay sequences, and breathtaking Technicolor cinematography by Leon Shamroy who won an Oscar for his work, this is a film well worth giving a look.
Despite the original camera negative having been lost for decades, 20th century Fox has provided a fairly solid Blu-ray transfer. Presented in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio, sharpness is excellent throughout. Colors are somewhat lacking, looking decidedly washed out in some scenes. Skin tones vary from purplish pink to brown throughout, and the contrast levels vary enough to turn blacks to gray and cause crushed blacks throughout. The transfer is remarkably clean.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 sound mix is solid, if not particularly powerful. Alfred Newman’s Oscar-nominated background score isn’t quite as dynamic as one might have hoped for, but its clean throughout. Dialogue has been well recorded throughout.
English SDH, Spanish, and French subtitles are available.
The following extras are included:
- Commentary by Rudy Behlmer and Maureen O’Hara. In a commentary that sounds like it was recorded separately, we get Behlmer’s typically excellent information and some wonderful anecdotal reminiscences from O’Hara.
- Theatrical Trailer (SD, 2:02).
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