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Arrrgh! Pirates Get 'Crimson' Skewering

August 16, 1990|MIKE FLAGG

"The Crimson Pirate" is a spoof of all those pirate movies that had Errol Flynn leaping about and skewering evil Spanish dons and just generally being gallant as hell. This time it's Burt Lancaster who gets to swing on ropes, bounce off canopies and otherwise put his acrobatic skills to good use. He turns out to be a fine comic actor, and his pirates are just as funny: They say "arrrgh" a lot and tend to get their peg legs stuck in the grills over the hatches.

It's one of those movies you can watch again and again, and its appearance on videotape some years ago was extremely welcome, since until then you had to rely on the vagaries of late-night TV to see this gem.

Lancaster and his first mate, Nick Cravat, wind up helping a bunch of revolutionaries led by a man named El Libre against the Spanish. They triumph with the help of a local scientist so far ahead of his time that he invents a crude tank, a flamethrower and a hot-air balloon for the revolutionaries to use in the climactic battle.

There is one of the all-time best examples of that old pirate-movie standby, the scene where the pirates board the enemy ship and fight a pitched battle with the bad guys. This one is both funny and exciting. There's also a great funny scene earlier in the movie where Cravat and Lancaster elude the Spanish troops by climbing up balconies, swinging between buildings and jumping onto canopies.

The rest of the cast in this Robert Siodmak-directed movie are just competent, but that's all they need to be: Lancaster and Cravat keep the whole improbable story going all by themselves.

"The Crimson Pirate" (1952), directed by Robert Siodmak. 104 minutes. No rating. MORE VIDEOS:

"The Third Man" (1949), directed by Carol Reed. 100 minutes. No rating. An American comes to post-war Vienna, discovers a friend has been murdered, and winds up learning a little about love and loyalty--too late, alas, to help himself. With Joseph Cotten, Orson Welles, a script by Graham Greene that is a marvel of wit and intelligence, and some great zither music.

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