movie film review | chris tookey

Blackbeard, The Pirate

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  Blackbeard, The Pirate Review
Tookey's Rating
4 /10
Average Rating
4.33 /10
Robert Newton, Linda Darnell, William Bendix
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Directed by: Raoul Walsh
Written by: Alan May, from a story by DeVallon Scott

Released: 1952
Origin: US
Colour: C
Length: 99

A vicious pirate is hunted as he sails the high seas.
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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Robert Newton’s over-the-top performance is either terrible hamming or an enjoyably bravura piece of high camp. I favour the latter. Either way, he is a lot better than Wiliam Bendix, who looks hugely uncomfortable as his first mate. This may have seemed pretty rousing stuff in 1952, but it’s terribly slow and dated now.


RKO producer Val Lewton had, at one time, planned this swashbuckler as a vehicle for Boris Karloff and in view of the outlandish performance by Robert Newton, one can only lament the fact that hre didn’t take the starring role. Newton throws in evcery cliche ever used by a pantomime pirate and occasionally comes close to making this vigorous adventure almost unwatchable.Fortunately, Raoul Walsh’s sure handling of the action sequences and a good supporting cast keep the thin afloat.

(Radio Times Film Guide)

Blackbeard tends to unfold more like a stage play than an adventure film, concentrating upon the underhanded dealings of a scummy pirate captain and several government agents working in secret aboard his vessel. Robert Newton has a grand time with a seafaring accent in his portrayal of the title character, but his enthusiasm provides an unfortunate contrast to William Bendix, who is just awful as his first mate. The film is unusually violent for its day, but the action is limited and not very exciting. As with any Walsh effort, the drama is dense enough to provide a basic level of entertainment, but its spirit is landlocked.


The whole affair is predictable, and the melodrama doesn't convince. Fans of the genre may find some satisfaction in the imaginatively staged fights, but as a whole the script piles on the cliches and the actors don't take the whole thing the slightest bit seriously.


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