A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this is as much a slapstick comedy as an action-adventure picture. Don't expect even something as serious-minded as the Disney Pirates of the Caribbean series. It's a quite lighthearted, innocent Technicolor romp of the old school. Violence is mostly slapstick, but it's still a movie with pirates in it, so you'll find stabbings and explosions, cannon fire, a flame thrower, and the heroine's elderly father is whipped and tortured (mostly off-screen). Two characters toss around TNT as a joke.
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What's the story?
Captain Vallo (Burt Lancaster), a dashing ocean pirate who captures a Spanish ship sent to quell a colonial uprising in the Caribbean, decides to profit off both sides. He not only sells the weapons on board to the rebels, but sells the rebels out to the governor's imperial forces. Vallo changes his mind, though, when he falls in love with the rebel leader's daughter, Consuelo (Eva Bartok). Because he's violated "the pirate code" by putting personal feelings ahead of plunder, Vallo is overthrown by his own crew, and the Spanish authorities plan to marry Consuelo off to the elderly governor to cement their power. But one of Vallo's remaining allies among the islanders, a Ben Franklin-type inventor-revolutionary, helps come up with homebrew high-explosives, a giant balloon, mobile cannons, and other gadgets to fight back against the Spanish and recapture Vallo's pirate ship.
Is it any good?
This is pure popcorn escapism that still holds up well. Though he became associated with ultra-serious roles in a long and varied filmography, star Burt Lancaster had an early career as a circus acrobat, one he put to good use in The Crimson Pirate, a flighty, swashbuckling romp in which he swings like Tarzan from mast to mast and rallies a bunch of villagers to invent the tank and the machine gun and the submarine several centuries early.
Playing out like a live-action cartoon, it's charming folderol, with practically no sense of danger, but lots of good humor, bright-colored costumes, impressive vessels, great stunts, and some clever lines -- or lack of them, in the case of Vallo's mute sidekick Ojo (Nick Cravat), who utters not a word, yet makes himself perfectly understood through miming and prop-comedy. The filmmakers even things out by giving the main villain his own nonverbal henchman, played by longtime screen menace Christopher Lee.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the appeal of pirate movies. This one is pretty far out, even by modern standards. Can you think of any realistic ones? You could use this to turn kids on to the classic Burt Lancaster dramas, or compare the fantasy pirates of the movies to the privateers and freebooters in real life.
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