The Crimson Pirate – Burt Lancaster

This was in many ways similar in style to ‘The Flame and the Arrow’ although nowhere near as popular and nothing like as good.

In the opening sequence Captain Vallo (Burt Lancaster) swings by rope across the screen, astounding the audience . “Gather round lads and lasses! You’ve been shanghaied for the last ride of the Crimson Pirate!” Vallo tells us to believe only what we see, before performing the same stunt in reverse! “No. Only half what you see”, he adds with a wink.

In the early 1950s, as he was pushing himself as an actor and star, Burt Lancaster did a series of films where the settings were quite colourful. Soon after this he was heading to Fiji to film ‘ HIS MAJESTY O’KEEFE’ which also starred Britain’s own Joan Rice

The Crimson Pirate 1952

His role in The Crimson Pirate was colourful, as a cheerful Captain Vallo who even wears outrageously crimson coloured pants. This is a salute to his silent film hero Douglas Fairbanks Sr., who had played THE BLACK PIRATE. Like Fairbanks (who would do his famous “cutting the sail of the captured boat with his cutlass, and descending to the deck that way”

Burt Lancaster turned this film into a showcase for his acrobatic skills with his old partner Nick Cravat (as the mute Ojo), trying to recapture Consuelo (Eva Bartok) and trying to even the score with Baron Gruda (Leslie Bradley) the Spanish colonial governor, and try to prevent a mutiny by his own crew, led by Humbell Bellows (Torin Thatcher )

However the most memorable part of this adventure comedy was the involvement of James Hayter and Noel Purcell as two local patriots who are trying to free the colony of the Spanish government.

James Hayter plays Professor Prudence. He is a scientist and an inventor.

He gets involved with Burt Lancaster and designs a set of weapons for them to use against the impregnable Spanish fortress on the island.

An early art directing credit for future James Bond production designer Ken Adam, along with British horror director Vernon Sewell on the second-unit.

Burt Lancaster was reunited with director Robert Siodmak who gave him his first film role in The Killers (1946). Burt had a very bad and quick temper and had threatened a number of Film Directors that he worked with – notably later in his career, Michael Winner who he threatened to kill three times. What a volatile character Burt Lancaster was – people wouldn’t stand for that nowadays and rightly so, Unpleasant man !!

One of his nastiest altercations came in February 1984, in Mexico, on the set of the film Little Treasure. Burt Lancaster, then 70 and recovering from heart bypass surgery, brawled with his 35-year-old female co-star Margot Kidder. The actress, who rose to fame as Lois Lane in the Superman movies, was playing Lancaster’s estranged daughter.

“I wanted to do something in a scene he didn’t want me to do, and I said ‘No, you don’t understand,’ and he started whacking me… I virtually whacked him back ,” the late Kidder said in 2009. She admitted she had hurled a “horrible” insult at Lancaster, shouting “You washed-up old f–!” at him, during a brawl that left both with bloody cuts.

Burt Lancaster The Crimson Pirate

In this film Burt Lancaster shows off his gleaming grin and acrobatic prowess. He is clearly having a great fun.

Eva Bartok is very good. She brings glamour and grit to the heroine role.

The Crimson Pirate

The film also features a notable role for Christopher Lee as the island governor’s right-hand man.

The Crimson Pirate 1952

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