A Douglas Fairbanks Double Feature: Robin Hood and The Black Pirate
Genre: Adventure, Family, Romance, Action
Year Released: 1922, 1926, and 2023 double feature from Kino Lorber
Runtime: 2h 13m / 1h 35m
Director(s): Allan Dwan, Albert Parker
Writer(s): Douglas Fairbanks, Kenneth Davenport, Allan Dwan, Edward Knoblock, Lotta Woods / Jack Cunningham
Cast: Douglas Fairbanks, Enid Bennett, Billie Dove, Wallace Beery, Donald Crisp
Where To Watch: available now, order here www.kinolorber.com, or www.amazon.com
RAVING REVIEW: Step into early Hollywood's grandeur with Kino Lorber's double feature starring Douglas Fairbanks in ROBIN HOOD and THE BLACK PIRATE. These films are a testament to Fairbanks' extraordinary versatility and agility, carving a niche in the annals of silent cinema. Fairbanks’s talent knew almost no bounds; along with acting, he was also a writer, producer, and more on many films during his career.
In the pantheon of silent film legends, Douglas Fairbanks holds a special place, and this is vividly brought to life in Kino Lorber's double feature of ROBIN HOOD and THE BLACK PIRATE. These films, exuding Fairbanks' physical dynamism and dramatic flair, paint a rich tapestry of early cinema's adventure and action. If you enjoy these, check out Kino’s other Douglas Fairbanks double feature, THE THREE MUSKETEERS and THE IRON MASK.
ROBIN HOOD, a production with an impressive budget for the day of 1.4 million dollars, showcases Fairbanks in a role that melds his physicality with grandiosity. The sets, designed to rival the best of the epics of the day and its premiere at the iconic Grauman's Egyptian Theater, mark it as a significant chapter in film history. However, the narrative needed to be polished, particularly in how Fairbanks' overconfident portrayal often felt almost overbearing. This contrasts his adept expression of frustration and emotional depth in earlier sequences.
The narrative of ROBIN HOOD strays from the beaten path, concentrating more on the character's life as the Earl of Huntingdon. While showcasing Fairbanks' acting range, this approach leads to a somewhat leisurely-paced first half. The film's comedic tone, especially Wallace Beery's portrayal of King Richard III, was a unique take for the day, the comedy battling with the drama in the film.
Shifting gears to the high seas, THE BLACK PIRATE presents another facet of Fairbanks' acting prowess. This film is significant for its early adoption of two-strip Technicolor, a bold move in cinematic technology. Fairbanks' portrayal of the adventurous pirate, complete with classic elements like treasure hunts and mutinies, is augmented by visually stunning scenes, including a memorable underwater sequence.
Fairbanks' vibrant performance and action sequences maintain a gripping narrative in THE BLACK PIRATE. Billie Dove's portrayal of Princess Isobel introduces a romantic subplot, though her character development could have been more in-depth. The film is a pioneering effort in the pirate genre, charting new territory for future cinematic endeavors in this domain.
Through its inventive storytelling and visual splendor, THE BLACK PIRATE solidifies Fairbanks' status as a trailblazer in action cinema. Its influence is evident in contemporary cinema, particularly in shaping the pirate movie genre and inspiring actors like Errol Flynn.
Together, ROBIN HOOD and THE BLACK PIRATE underscore Fairbanks' indelible contributions to early Hollywood. These films, each with distinct strengths and weaknesses, explore the origins of film's action and adventure genres. Their spectacular visuals, engaging narratives, and compelling performances make them essential viewing for anyone interested in the evolution of cinematic storytelling and the legacy of one of silent film's greatest icons.
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[photo courtesy of KINO LORBER]