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About Daniel

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    Pyrate Captain
  • Birthday 03/15/1973

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    McLean, VA
  • Interests
    History, pirates, fiction, writing, writing historical fiction about pirates, jokes, games, law.

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  1. Ancient one resurfaces

    I remember you. A very talented artist, if I remember rightly. Nice to see you again.
  2. Post yer colors, mates!

    I made this flag using HeroMachine 3 for a GURPS role-playing game I'm GMing.
  3. Repairing the belt loop on a knife scabbard

    Hmm, never set a rivet in my life, but maybe this will be the first time. I'll drop by the hardware store and have a look-see. Thanks for the compliments, Jib and Jas!
  4. Repairing the belt loop on a knife scabbard

    Thanks! I don't own a curved needle, so never thought of using one, but it would probably be easy to find and acquire. The holes are so close together that I don't think I could stitch from one hole into an adjacent one, but I could just stitch every second or third hole, and stitch the holes I missed the first time when I came around the second or third time. I don't believe I would want to unstitch the scabbard edge; the stitched edge is finished with some kind of black glue or sealant that I don't think I could replace.
  5. So Rock Hall's tomorrow, and I find the belt loop on the scabbard for the beautiful knife I bought at Lockhouse last year is broken. The scabbard is a single piece of leather folded and stitched together along the edge. The belt loop is a simple strip of leather stitched at each end through the side of the scabbard. It's the end closer to the scabbard's point, the non-load-bearing end, that's come unstitched. Obviously, when the scabbard was made, the belt loop was stitched on first, and only afterward was the scabbard folded and stitched together. There's no way anyone could have poked a needle down into the scabbard after it was finished to stitch the belt loop on, and no way that I can do it now. What would a pirate do in this situation? Maybe just forget about the belt loop and tuck the silly scabbard inside his belt. But what I did was take a strip of linen about 3/4 inch by10 inches, and stitch through the middle of it into the holes on the inner side of the lower end of the belt loop, then wrapped the ends around the other side of the scabbard and tied them tightly with two reef knots. Voila, a working belt loop again! It looks like hell, but I imagine real pirates' equipment might often have quite a jury-rigged appearance. Any one know how repairs like this were actually done in period? I can't imagine that any period source would talk about this, but maybe some archaeologist turned up a a repaired scabbard at some point? Inner side of the repaired scabbard, with lower end of belt loop stitched to linen strip between belt loop and scabbard. Linen strip secured on outer side of scabbard with double reef knots, holding belt loop in place.
  6. Link is not working for me, but I see a description of the course on Google which seems to be at the same URL.
  7. I've just read bits and pieces about this, all jumbled together in my mind. No promises of accuracy here. Of course, the rapier was the "weapon of choice" only for the very well-to-do who could afford a very expensive weapon and the lessons in the salle to use it. Samuel Pepys, though comfortably middle class, owned a hanger (basically a nice cutlass), not a rapier. What I remember reading is that the classical 16th-century rapier gave way to the "transition rapier" during the later 1600s, and shortly after 1700 the transition rapier was replaced by the smallsword. The transition rapiers had shorter, lighter blades for fast work and more thrusting, but they were still basically flat and sharp-edged and could deliver a deadly cut. Some time around 1680, the "colichemarde" appeared, which had a wide flat forte that could parry without breaking, but a thin thrusting foible that was hardly useful to cut at all. The final smallsword was a very thin, short, thrusting-only weapon, many with triangular cross-section blades. The triangular, "bayonet" cross-section stiffened the blade and would make a nasty puncture wound, but could not slash effectively because the spine of the blade would prevent deep cuts. In terms of why the change, I read once that improved quality steel was an important reason. 16th-century fencers used the main gauche for defense mainly because their rapiers tended to break if they blocked a heavy cut. As the quality of steel improved, it became possible to use the rapier itself to block, which put a premium on making the rapier small and quick enough to block, and caused the main gauche to fall out of use. But why did thrusting completely eclipse cutting, thus dooming the sharp-edged, cut-and-thrust rapier? I don't really know. Certainly thrusting tends to be more lethal; as long ago as the Roman general Vegetius, people noticed that cuts rarely killed, while even shallow thrusts were often fatal. But come on; a man may not die if you cut his hand off, but he'll drop his sword and then you can stab him all you want. There was a famous rivalry between the French and the Italian styles of rapier fencing, both of whom had their devotees throughout Europe, but I don't know if that had anything to do with the point becoming supreme; the rapier fell out of use in both France and Italy, after all. But in one place, the rapier held on after everyone else had switched to the smallsword: Spain. The unique Spanish fencing style was never popular outside Spain, and was until recently derided by historians of fencing, but lately has seen a resurgence of interest and respect. Well into the 1700s the Spanish continued to use the rapier, although I don't know if it was a classical or transitional style. The Spanish rapier wasn't much use on ship; Bartholomew Sharp easily defeated the rapier-armed officers of a Spanish barque in the early 1680s. But it may have been more practical on land. (The word "rapier" derives from Spanish, by the way; it was originally the espada ropera, the dressing sword, meaning the kind of sword you wore with your street clothes instead of when armored for battle).
  8. Daniel Reviews Every Pirate Movie Ever Made

    CARAIBI (1999) A.K.A. PIRATES: BLOOD BROTHERS Directed by Lamberto Bava. Featuring: Nicholas Rogers, Paolo Seganti, Jennifer Nitsch, Padma Lakshmi, Anna Falchi, Remo Girone, Mario Adorf, Francesco Casale. Daniel’s rating: Rating withheld. Synopsis: The Milanese brothers Ferrante and Ippolito have both fallen in love with Livia, daughter of the Count Cornero. She chooses Ferrante. When Cornero murders their father, Ippolito tries to take revenge, but shoots Livia by mistake. Both brothers are condemned to death for murdering Livia, but they escape. Ferrante is captured by a Barbary corsair, is liberated by other pirates, flees to the Caribbean, and works his way up to pirate captain. Meanwhile, Ippolito, consumed by guilt over shooting Livia, takes service with the King of France, hoping to find his brother again and beg his forgiveness. On their adventures, both fall in love again; Ippolito with Isabella, a mysterious prisoner promised to a French nobleman, and Ferrante with Malina, a Yucatan Indian whose people have been murdered by the Spanish army. Evaluation: Evaluating this thing I just watched is like trying to evaluate the Mona Lisa after somebody poured acid on the canvas. The movie was originally a six hour TV miniseries called Caraibi, released in Italy and Germany in 1999. Later, some madman with a cutlass chopped it down to under four hours, and hired the first five people he met on the street to do the English dubbing. Several characters are dubbed by the same voice, and all of them are as hokey and hammy as anything you would hear in a small-town high school play. The result was then dumped on the U.S. DVD market under the title Pirates: Blood Brothers, where Netflix snapped it up, and it drifted finally into my DVD player. Pirates: Blood Brothers is obviously a travesty. The mystery is, what was Caraibi? Did the original actors have some clue what they were doing before their lines were all overdubbed by amateur-hour hacks? Are the huge plot holes due to the mindless cutting, or are they left over from the original script? Were the lines always this flat and lifeless, or were they spoiled in translation? Only one thing is clear: Caraibi’s original images were spectacular, so rich and august that even this bastardized version couldn’t ruin them. Lamberto Bava, a veteran of the Italian giallo genre, is endlessly inventive in his camera shots and invests lavishly in his sets and costumes. Feast on the piercing eyes and fearsome beard of Nicholas Rogers’s Ferrante, on the suffering face and statuesque torso of Paolo Seganti’s Ippolito, on the Faye Dunaway furtiveness and passion of Jennifer Nitsch’s Isabella, and the sensuous feline grace of Padma Lakshmi’s Malina! Then too, Bava gets that ships are characters, like the saloons and corrals of the Western and the castles and churches of the medieval period piece; his spinning aerial shots of Ferrante’s three-master Livia are magnificent. His only misstep is the clumsy computer animation of the cannon balls, which did not have to appear on screen at all and shouldn’t have. The heart of the story (or what’s left of it) is Ippolito’s quest to reunite with his brother, which corrupts him instead of redeeming him, and leaves us wondering what exactly he expects to happen when he finds Ferrante. Ippolito also gets the more interesting cast of characters around him; a pair of convicts one of whom is mute and another who has an uncanny talent for wax sculpture, a thuggish French spymaster, and the evil Count Cornero who is accompanied by an unpleasant masked assassin whose identity is a bit too easy to guess. When Isabella joins Ippolito halfway through the story, Ferrante has almost no one left to play with except Malina. And Malina, unfortunately, is not that well drawn; she’s less a unique individual and more a symbol of the New World that Ferrante is falling in love with, and which will ultimately separate him from his brother more permanently than Livia’s death will. There’s so much romance and action in the story that little room is left for humor, but we do get some funny moments when we find that Devil Claw the pirate has a sort of Dread Pirate Roberts schtick going, and one of Ippolito’s friend’s waxen masks fails in an amusing way. And there’s a dark take on the old trope of the quest for revenge. Pirates: Blood Brothers confronts the old ethical question every pirate movie must face – how do you justify making pirates heroes? – in the standard way: contrast them favorably with the governing institutions of the time. Black slavery in French Martinique is prominently showcased, as well as the use of torture by French officials. There is a pointed montage where Ferrante’s oath to the Brethren of the Coast,with its ideals of freedom and equality, is interspersed with Ippolito’s oath of service to the French king, where he promises to lie, steal and murder at the crown’s command. But bizarre plot loopholes are everywhere. One man begins to succumb to poison slowly after taking several mouthfuls of poisoned soup over several days; then another man takes one spoonful of the soup and drops dead in minutes. The man sick from poison suddenly develops the ability to leap around and climb ropes, then goes back to being sick again. Another character is hit by a pistol bullet that does no visible damage to the face, but then has massive facial scars after healing. In another error that must have come from bad translation, the pirate Devil Claw claims to find his name in a book, which is clearly shown calling him “Devil’s Tail.” Perhaps the most bizarre moment is when a pirate captain, for no apparent reason, abandons his crew to set up shop with a new one. Caraibi may well be worth watching, for all I can tell, if a full version with English subtitles exists somewhere. Pirates: Blood Brothers should be avoided by all but the most hard-core pirate fans. Piratical tropes and comments: Ah, those ships! Pirates: Blood Brothers features some magnificent ship reproductions, starring the Kalmar Nyckel as Ferrante’s ship Livia, and a beautiful red galleon that I didn’t recognize. Bava takes full advantage of the rigging, the figureheads, the anchors, the capstans, and even the transoms to give us the full flavor of pirate shipboard life. The story is supposed to be set in the 1650s, with references to Queen Christina of Sweden and “the Cardinal,” who could be Richelieu or Mazarin. But the costumes and sets look more Elizabethan, with huge matchlock arquebuses fired from stands, long slashing rapiers, doublets and even lace ruffs exactly like what Queen Elizabeth I herself wore. The hats look more period-appropriate, with broad brims sharply upturned on one side. The Indians’ costumes are pure fantasy. Pirates: Blood Brothers is one of the few pirate movies to feature Barbary pirates, complete with slaves chained to the oars. The Barbary captain, true to history, is a Polish renegade, not a Turk or Arab at all. Our good old standby, the pirate parrot, appears prominently on the shoulder of Captain Devil Claw. It’s a red-lored Amazon, just like Heston’s Long John Silver has, and here it does double duty as a carrier pigeon. We have two Jolly Rogers. Devil Claw flies the Richard Worley flag with a skull in full face and crossed bones directly behind the skull. Ferrante’s Roger is more interesting: a human hand offering a wedding ring to a skeletal hand, clearly representing his enduring love for the dead Livia. I love it; you can never have too many variations on the Jolly Roger. The knife in the teeth makes a brief appearance in Captain Devil Claw’s mouth, as he swims out to board a canoe. The pistols are all true flintlocks, which make a bizarre companion to the matchlock muskets. I guess Bava thought wheel-locks wouldn’t be telegenic enough. And the stiletto makes several ghastly appearances in the hands of the masked assassin. A full-on assault by a pirate ship on a shore fort appears, which the pirates improbably win by using secret massive artillery. What, landing miles away and sneaking through the jungle to assault the fort from behind wouldn’t have worked? There are no treasure maps; instead, Ippolito has all the maps, which he ominously marks with X’s as he eliminates one potential pirate hiding spot after another. In sum, Pirates: Blood Brothers has almost all the pirate tropes except justaucorps and plank walking, both of which are properly absent because they belong to a later era. What is nice is that the tropes are invigorated, not tired out. Pirates: Blood Brothers is silly, not stale. Anything about that old man look familiar, Ferrante? Ippolito and Isabella share a moment together. Yes, there's a reason I'm called Devil Claw. Why do you ask? Malina wants this one for herself. Not what you want to see through your spyglass. Shooting fish in a barrel is not as easy as you've been led to believe. I admit it, Lamberto Bava could shoot pictures. Warning: warranty on waxen mask is void if wearer stands next to torch.
  9. Rock Hall's Pirates & Wenches Fantasy Weekend

    Anyone else going to Rock Hall this year? It's August 8-10. I'll be there, this time with both rum punch and salmagundi, on Saturday. Judging by last year, this is a great event, smaller than Hampton, but bigger than Lockhouse. It had a nice pirate encampment for the historically minded, and lots of games for the kids, and great pirate music. Hands-on swordfighting too. I enjoyed it very much, and hope to enjoy it again this year.
  10. Be advised that we're taking down the gallery

    Yes, I think that's a better idea. I just want to make sure that the new thread stays on top, and locking the old one should do that.
  11. Be advised that we're taking down the gallery

    The new movie thread is finished. Please delete the old one when you have a chance.
  12. Daniel Reviews Every Pirate Movie Ever Made

    CAPTAIN BLOOD (1935) Directed by Michael Curtiz. Featuring: Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Basil Rathbone, Lionel Atwill, Ross Alexander, Guy Kibbee, Henry Stephenson, Forrester Harvey, Pedro de Cordoba, George Hassell, Leonard Mudie. Daniel’s rating: 3 ½ out of 5. Synopsis: Irish doctor Peter Blood is happily indifferent to Monmouth’s rebellion against King James II, but he readily answers the call to treat a wounded rebel, and for this he is sentenced to slavery in Jamaica. Arabella Bishop, a rich planter’s daughter, first buys Blood to save him from death in the sulfur mines, and then arranges a soft job for him as doctor to Jamaica’s gouty, gormless governor. Blood, though, is not content with personal comfort. He means to escape and turn pirate in revenge against the King. But he may not be able to have both Arabella and his vengeance. Evaluation: Five of Rafael Sabatini’s pirate novels were adapted into major movies. They were The Sea Hawk, The Black Swan, and a trio of tales that started life as a series of short stories about an Irish physician turned buccaneer: Captain Blood: His Odyssey, Captain Blood Returns and The Fortunes of Captain Blood. In all these works, Sabatini showed a flair for writing magnificent heroes, larger than life in their courage, intelligence, and strength, but with flaws as big as their virtues. The movie Captain Blood is a simple story – much simpler than the novel, much of which was cut. It’s one man’s triumph over adversity all the way, as one might expect for a Depression-era movie. A simple story is probably harder to make well than a more complex one, because there’s less novelty to sustain the viewer’s interest, and thus Michael Curtiz deserves all credit for keeping Captain Blood a riveting watch all the way through, even during the long second act on Jamaica. Blood is a great character; not just deadly and determined with a sword, but a clever planner, a wise and compassionate leader, and brilliant in his reading of men (though not of women, to his regret). Above all, he’s stubborn, refusing ever to accept the bad hand life has dealt him or stop fighting against it. There are some forces you can’t destroy, like King James or the Depression, but you can still outlast them, and that’s just what Blood does. At the same time, Blood has big flaws in the true Sabatini style, although the grand hubris he had in the novel is softened here into something more like naivete. Blood blithely assumes that he won’t get in trouble for dressing a rebel’s injuries because “Christian men don’t make war on the wounded.” Even when a royal officer threatens to hang him, Blood is so overconfident that he mouths back to the officer. And when he’s drunk, he can make serious errors in judgment, as he himself recognizes. The main reason Blood is determined to save his fellow prisoners, not just himself, is his sense of guilt toward them: they had fought against King James’s tyranny back when he, Blood, had been ignoring it. Blood’s lady love, Arabella Bishop, is well drawn too. Though no more experienced than Flynn, Olivia de Havilland is much more confident and convincing in her role. She’s independent of her bullying uncle Bishop, and fascinated but not at all intimidated by the beautiful Peter Blood. She saves his life on multiple occasions, is attracted rather than by offended by his refusal to flatter her, and finally comes to understand his resentment of being bought by her when he turns the tables on her. The worst problem with Sabatini’s novel is that none of its villains equals Blood in stature, probably because each of the short stories the novel grew from had to offer its own little bad guy for Blood to beat. The movie doesn’t completely overcome this problem – Mr. Bishop is a contemptible adversary for Blood – but Basil Rathbone’s Captain Levasseur is another story. Handsome, dangerous, and ruthless, Levasseur admires Blood at first for his success, but then fatally underestimates him. His duel scene with Blood is the highlight of the film; Levasseur takes a mad joy in sword-fighting and is certain that, having been outwitted once by Blood, he now has his opponent where he wants him. We can almost envy Levasseur when he dies doing what he loves most. What about drawbacks? Well, strange to say, the worst problem with the movie is Flynn himself. Captain Blood made Flynn a star, but it’s safe to say that it was his Adonis-like beauty that did it, not his acting. He does reasonably well in the early scenes, but every now and again a weird, forced grin crosses his face. Then, in the later scenes, when he is called on to inspire his men, his every word becomes forced, a problem aggravated by the clunky dialogue (much of it not Sabatini’s). Flynn soon outgrew this – his rabble-rousing scenes in The Sea Hawk and The Adventures of Robin Hood showed boundless charisma – but he was clearly still cutting his leading-man teeth in Captain Blood. Also, Curtiz’s comedy is often too broad, especially in the closing scene, as well as with the odious comic relief of Forrester Harvey’s Nuttall and the brainless Governor Steede. There is a very strong supporting cast egging the leads on, notably Guy Kibbee as Blood’s graceless but honest gunner Hagthorpe, and a deliciously evil Leonard Mudie as Judge Jeffreys, the man behind the Bloody Assizes that killed and enslaved hundreds of Monmouth’s followers. Sabatini will never cast as long a shadow on pirate literature as Stevenson or Barrie have, but he did something neither of those two more famous writers did: he introduced us to the pirate as a hero, not a villain. Without that idea, Flynn wouldn’t have become a star. Nor, very likely, would Fairbanks. Piratical tropes and comments: Captain Blood begins in 1685 and ends in 1688, the exact duration of King James II’s reign. The movie has a mixed record on historical accuracy. It has some magnificently rendered ship models, most especially the Spanish ship that Flynn and his men capture to start their pirate careers, but many of these were built for Napoleonic-era movies, and have square-rigged mizzen sails instead of lateen mizzens. The cannon are accurately shown being fired with linstocks. Captain Blood follows a common trope for early pirate movies: thick slashing cutlasses for the men, but elegant dueling swords for the heroic captain. In this case, Flynn and Levasseur fight with smallswords. The fencing style, though, is more suited to early rapier cut-and-thrust technique, which is much more cinematic than the extremely linear, speedy, thrusting-only tactics that would have been used with the smallswords. We also see one of the very few moments in film where pirates wear armor. Blood’s men use Spanish morions and cuirasses, which is partly justified because they’ve ambushed Spanish troops and taken their gear, but which are still anachronisms because by 1687 the Spanish hadn’t used morions for decades. A great deal of attention is paid to Blood’s articles, which are glossed over in the original novel. They are closely modeled on Henry Morgan’s articles, even specifying the same number of pieces of eight that Morgan offered for each wound, although the option of taking your compensation in slaves is mercifully omitted. We get to see a division of treasure according to these articles, with the extra shares for the maimed; in some dubious comedy, one pirate purposely shoots off his own toe to get the extra money. Blood’s Jolly Roger is unique: a white banner with a skull above interlocked arms, both wielding swords. The white color and the implication of brotherhood in the crossed arms are perhaps inspired by the mythical Captain Misson’s flag. Unfortunately, the buccaneers hoist it only once for practice, and after that it serves for a few seconds as a transparent overlay for a montage of implied derring-do. We never see it again. Port Royal is represented with Spanish-style adobe walls, square towers and tile roofs, appropriately enough for a former Spanish colony. But it has been provided with sulfur mines to threaten Blood with; Jamaica actually had no mining industry until the 20th century. Bishop is a sugar planter, which we would expect. His slaves are shown working a gigantic machine whose purpose is not apparent: it has a giant horizontal wheel for the slaves to turn, and a giant vertical wheel which is water-powered, linked by a second vertical wheel which doesn’t seem to do anything at all. Levasseur’s wardrobe is a perfect Halloween pirate costume; puffy-sleeved linen shirt, sash belt, bandolier belt, and tight trousers with high boots. Other clothing is surprisingly restrained, with Blood often appearing a simple waistcoat. The most luxuriously dressed characters are the Bishops, uncle and niece both. Broad-brimmed 17th century plumed hats are common. Periwigs do appear on Governor Steede and Judge Jeffrys, but not on others who you’d expect, like Mr. Bishop. Sabatini has Blood himself wearing a periwig at his trial, but Curtiz doesn’t, appreciating that modern audiences won’t cheer for a fop. Peter Blood, M.D., sometimes forgets the Hippocratic Oath. Arabella Bishop can buy me for ten pounds any time she wants. No, Bud Light! Basil Rathbone really sinks his teeth into the role of Levasseur . Blood's Jolly Roger. I want one, I want one! Leonard Mudie's Judge Jeffrys and his Periwig of Evil. This is exactly why we don't give slaves armor. Or swords.
  13. Daniel Reviews Every Pirate Movie Ever Made

    PETER PAN (1953) Directed by Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson, Hamilton Luske, and Jack Kinney. Featuring the voices of: Bobby Driscoll, Kathryn Beaumont, Hans Conried, Bill Thompson, Paul Collins, Tommy Luske, Candy Candido, Tom Conway, Heather Angel. Daniel's rating: 3 out of 5. Synopsis: It’s Wendy Darling’s last night in the nursery with her brothers John and Michael, before her father sends her to live alone in a room of her own. On this last night Peter Pan come to the nursery to take the three children flying away to Neverland, where children never grow up, but where they do need a mother like Wendy. The only grownups in Neverland are a crew of wicked pirates led by Captain Hook and his bumbling bosun Smee, who are always searching futilely for Peter Pan and his never-grown-up Lost Boys. But Peter Pan’s pixie companion Tinkerbell is very jealous of Wendy, and that may prove Peter Pan’s undoing . Evaluation: Peter Pan and Treasure Island are the two most popular pirate stories ever written in English, and they are as different as Ashley Olsen and Clint Eastwood. Treasure Island is a very masculine story, full of danger, violence, and virtue battling depravity, driven by Jim Hawkins’s search for gold, for manhood, and the lost father that he naively believes he has found again in Long John Silver. Peter Pan is a feminine, childlike fantasy, just as much about Wendy Darling as it is about Peter Pan (J.M. Barrie’s novel was titled Peter and Wendy), and is about the magic of being a child and having the childish imagination. Treasure Island is about Jim Hawkins growing up; Peter Pan is about Wendy Darling staying a child, at least for a while longer, while Mr. Darling regains a little of the child he once was. Peter Pan, the boy who wouldn't grow up, is carefree and contemptuous of danger, seemingly unaware of his own mortality. He is interested in Wendy because she tells stories about him, which he tells to the Lost Boys, and when he invites her to Neverland, he wants her to be a mother there. All the girls in the story, though, want to be Peter's romance, not his mom, - Wendy, Tiger Lily, the mermaids, and most especially Tinkerbell - and the bizarre thing is that he never notices this. Even when Tinkerbell tries to murder Wendy, Peter never figures out that this is jealousy at work; all he understands is that Tinkerbell has betrayed the gang, and so he banishes her. Ironically, Peter is voiced by Bobby Driscoll, the same child star who played Jim Hawkins in the 1950 Treasure Island, who would die tragically from the effects of drugs and alcohol before the age of 40, an end more reminiscent of Captain Flint than Jim Hawkins or Peter Pan. Wendy is just on the cusp of growing up; she is already half a mother to her younger brothers, and clearly her being sent out of the nursery will mean the end of her childhood. And she already has grown-up attitudes and prejudices; she is jealous of Peter, demands that they can't stay in Neverland like "savages," and is quite ready to drown rather than become a pirate. The villain, Captain James Hook, is really the most remarkable character in the story. He is the only grown-up of the three leads. And what is it that marks him as a grown-up? The sound he always hears: tick-tock, tick-tock. Time is running out. Death is nearing. With this tortured soul as his main example of adulthood, no wonder Peter Pan doesn't want to grow up. From the moment we meet Hook, he is hunting Peter, who cut his hand off in a fight long ago. But why was Captain Hook fighting Peter in the first place? My best guess is plain envy. He can't stand having someone else around who do plainly doesn't suffer the constant terror of death. But Peter Pan, for all that it says to grown-ups, or just reveals about them, is really meant for children. It wasn't a random whim when Barrie willed the rights to Peter Pan to a children's hospital charity; he imagined this story cheering children who were sick, some perhaps dying. How good is Peter Pan for them? Well, when I was a kid I loved it; now that I’m grown, my own son loves it; and I think most children will too. Being a child means having the Unknown much closer around you, always at arm's reach, sometimes close enough to bite. That’s not just because you haven't had all your schooling yet, but because you haven't had time yet to recognize patterns that adults see instantly. You don't know yet that the mad killer under the bed is a phantom while the drunk driver is an omnipresent threat; you don’t know yet that buried treasure and an M.D. degree aren’t equally plausible paths to wealth. The constant presence of the Unknown gives children a capacity for fear and wonder that shrinks or dies as we grow up. Children's feelings about a story depend on what you put in that so-huge, so-close Unknown. So when you tell them that the Unknown beyond the second star to the right contains not the monster under the bed, but Indians and mermaids, hollow trees and pirates, and Captain Hook can be avoided because there you can FLY, you will get that squeal of delight that only children can make. Piratical tropes and comments: Peter Pan is one of the least credible pirate movies ever made, because Hook's pirates don't seem to be interested in stealing anything. There aren't even any other ships to attack or towns to plunder. Maybe this is why the pirates seem to be perpetually mad at Smee when he serves them their thin victuals. Barrie wrote that Hook looked like "the ill-fated Stuarts," and he certainly could pass for Charles II in this movie with his long wig and coat, sinister mustache, narrow face, and stockings. His shoes are bizarre, with something like wings protruding from the ankle; whether this is a Disney invention or some short-lived period fashion I can't imagine. He acts like an absolute monarch, too, abusing his confederate Smee and shooting one of his own men out of the rigging for singing annoying songs. Hook's hook is a trope in itself, of course. Obviously, he’s named after his prosthesis; Barrie wrote that revealing Hook’s true name would have scandalized the country. This is the story that made the hook a fixture in pirate mythology. Some real pirates lost a hand, for sure – Christopher Condent was nicknamed “Billy One-Hand” – but there’s no proof that any used hooks. Hook's sword is a complete anachronism; a. 19th century épée de duel with cup guard. The other pirates stick to short cutlasses that are perhaps a bit wider and straighter in the blade than typical pirate cutlasses, but would certainly serve for hacking and stabbing on a crowded deck. One last accessory that the movie’s Hook retains from Barrie is a double cigar holder. Unlike most of Barrie’s pirate images, this one never caught on; I’ve never seen a cigar holder in any subsequent pirate movie, much less a double one. I severely doubt this is period; cigars weren’t popular yet in the 18th century. The period paintings show pipes and snuff boxes, not cigar holders. Probably the most important trope that Peter Pan popularized is walking the plank, done here face forward (not sidewise as in Pyle’s picture), and with the hands tied, but no blindfold, although Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. had already walked the narrow timber road in The Black Pirate. There are two cases from the 19th century where pirates did this, and one from the 1750s when mutineers used the plank, but there are no known cases from the Golden Age. Smee and the other pirates are very different from Hook, ragged and ugly and brutal. Smee wears the usual backward-bending sailor’s cap, and he wears sandals, one of the very few screen pirates to do so. The other pirates tend to go for the headkerchief style popularized by Howard Pyle. Peter Pan follows the Black Pirate in having the pirates’ victims all tied to the mast as they await their fate. At least one 19th century pirate victim was reported being tied to the mast and tortured, and Captain Low once burnt a ship with the cook tied to the mainmast, but tying bunches of people to the mast at once probably wasn’t practical. Lastly, this is the only pirate movie I can recall where the pirates try to force prisoners to sign the articles under threat of death. Refusal means the plank. I can’t imagine why this hasn’t been used more often. Real pirates did this all the time, notably Roberts and Low. And it has such dramatic potential, as we see when Wendy refuses and faces her death on the plank so bravely. I want to see more movies, and more stories, that deal with this. Peter Pan brings a knife to a swordfight; luckily, that's all he needs Every pirate map should have an Indian Camp, a Cannibal Cove, a Mermaid Lagoon, and a Skull Rock. All this female attention can't be good for Peter. Tinkerbell, have you been up to no good again? Hook, meet Crocodile. Crocodile, meet . . . oh. You already know each other. Words couldn't possibly improve this picture. How're we doing?" "Same as always." "That bad, eh?" Greg Louganis never had to do this with his hands tied.
  14. Daniel Reviews Every Pirate Movie Ever Made

    NATE AND HAYES (1983) a.k.a. SAVAGE ISLANDS Directed by Ferdinand Fairfax. Featuring: Tommy Lee Jones, Miles O’Keefe, Jenny Seagrove, Max Phipps, Grant Tilly, Peter Rowley, William Johnson, Kate Harcourt, Reg Ruka, Bruce Allpress, Pudji Waseso, Prince Tui Teka. Daniel’s rating: 4 out of 5. Synopsis: Bully Hayes and his crew are running guns to some native rebels. Instead of paying Hayes, the rebels kill his men and chase him into the arms of Spanish bounty hunters. As Hayes awaits his hanging, he reminisces about the events that led him here. When Hayes brought the engaged couple Nate and Sophie to Williamson’s Mission in the South Pacific, Sophie showed clear signs of falling in love with Hayes. After Hayes departs, Nate and Sophie’s wedding is interrupted by Ben Pease and his pirates, who slaughter Nate’s family, enslave the islanders, kidnap Sophie, and leave Nate for dead. To add insult to injury, Pease frames Hayes for the crime. We learn that this is standard operating procedure for Pease, who has a longstanding grudge against Hayes. Hayes never took much notice of this before, but Pease never abducted the woman Hayes loves before. Evaluation: Making movies is all about fakery. Actors pretend to be people they aren’t, pretend to feel things they don’t, and say things that aren’t true, in front of sets that aren’t what they look like, while the special effects make living people look dead and safe people appear threatened. But there is one thing that movie makers can’t fake: a love for their material. If the actors and the director really care about what they’re doing, it will always show, and if they have contempt for it, that can’t be hidden either. Nate and Hayes is one of the first kind: a movie with heart, a movie with joy in its story, in its characters, and above all in its images. Bully Hayes is the sort of character Kenny Rogers would have played in the 1970s, a bearded tough guy who exudes irreverence, always falls for a pretty face, and openly delights in beating stronger, richer, more socially acceptable opponents. He and Ben Pease have both fought their way up from the bottom of the heap, breaking every law in their path, but Hayes has made his fortune by crossing the rich and powerful, while Pease has made it by doing the upper crust’s dirty work. Hayes is the guy we straight males all wish we could be: effortlessly attractive to women, commanding men’s trust and loyalty, lethal in combat, rarely doubting what to do or say. The role requires the actor’s deepest reserves of confidence, and Tommy Lee Jones gives it all he has. Michael O’Keefe’s Nate Williamson is an uptight, headstrong young preacher who is uncomfortable in his own skin. At first, it looks like he’ll be just a punching bag for Hayes, like Slezak’s Alvarado from The Spanish Main, or worse, Beau Bridges’s Major Folly from Swashbuckler. Thankfully, that doesn’t happen. Nate sheds his incompetence as the movie goes on and grows into a hero, saving Hayes’s life and earning his respect in the process. When the inevitable drunken bonding scene comes, it works because the foundation has been properly laid. And instead of going at each other’s throats over their mutual love Sophie, Nate and Hayes actually behave like civilized human beings, promise to leave the decision to Sophie, and refuse to let it get in the way of their friendship. And they both keep their word. When was the last time you saw a love triangle resolved like that? Our leading lady, Jenny Seagrove’s Sophie, is a delight: independent minded, strong , brave, romantic, and beautiful. At the beginning, she clearly thinks she is too much woman for her fiancé, Nate, and Nate begins to suspect the same. Her main problem is that the story doesn’t have enough room for her; this is essentially a buddy movie between Nate and Hayes, and so poor Sophie spends much of the movie shunted into the damsel-in-distress role, complete with the obligatory rescue-me-from-being-a-virgin-sacrifice scene. She deserved better. The usual trouble with a strong hero like Hayes is that he kills suspense by overmatching the villains, but there's no danger of that with Max Phipps around. His Ben Pease is everything a good pirate villain should be: greedy, ruthless, cunning, and vengeful. And boy, has he got a lot to be vengeful about - Hayes once gave him a .44-caliber vasectomy when they fought over a woman. Even better, all Pease's confrontations with Hayes are battles of wits; the two antagonists never once cross blades or trade shots on screen. And Pease is supported by an ensemble of memorable minor baddies. Grant Tilly’s Count von Rittenberg, while harmless and even sympathetic enough in himself, is both powerful and dangerous because of the strength of the Second Reich behind him. Maori rock singer Prince Tua Teke literally chews the scenery as he enjoys his rather hackneyed role as King Oatopi of Ponape. The queen of the native rebels is a menacing, regal presence; Hayes is horrified when she accidentally shoots two of her own warriors with the guns he is selling, but she just laughs and says it proves the guns work well. Nate and Hayes is one of the most violent pirate movies ever made, doing the same thing for the genre of The Black Swan and Treasure Island that Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch did for the Western. Hayes’s entire crew gets killed off in the first ten minutes, being resurrected only by flashback; pirates massacre peaceful missionaries, chain up their innocent native hosts, and carry them off into slavery; Hayes himself graphically kills lots of attacking native rebels, including several women. Gore, screams, and death rattles visit the screen often. This is only proper for a pirate story, since the whole history of piracy is written in blood, but it was in bad taste to try to make light of the violence with Hayes’s forced one-liners, Nate waving goodbye to a drowning enemy, and the like. The movie’s worst flaw is unnecessary strains on credibility. For example, while Hayes asks a barkeep where Pease is, one of Pease’s crew sneaks up behind Hayes, but he shoots the barkeep instead of Hayes. Hayes invents a clever trap, but then sets it in such a way that it only works through dumb luck. An explosion destroys an entire ship, but the person standing at ground zero of the blast is barely harmed. King Oatopi negotiates with a German envoy and demands shrunken heads and a virgin sacrifice, all of which he could easily obtain himself, instead of guns, ships, modern medicines, schools, or other things that only the German envoy can provide. It must also be admitted that Nate and Hayes is a bit predictable, especially at the end (hmm, I wonder who might show up to help Hayes out of his predicament?). Also, the film’s depiction of the various South Pacific native peoples will strike some people as racist. In the movie’s defense, I would say that many of the natives are perfectly decent people, particularly the ones at Williamson’s Mission, while those that are villainous are no worse than the white pirates and colonialists. Even the inhabitants of Ponape, who are shown in the worst light, are clearly not primitives, but highly intelligent engineers who understand leverage and counterweights. But while I don’t think Nate and Hayes is racist in the sense of depicting South Pacific islanders as mentally or morally inferior, there’s no denying that the film is careless and indifferent to the reality of South Pacific societies and customs. It’s ridiculous to show the Ponapeans continuing to wear their ceremonial masks once a battle breaks out. The costumes given to the native rebels at the beginning are beyond ridiculous. And we have yet another of those native tribes where every one of the women is between ages 18 and 25 and gorgeous. Some viewers will find this unforgiveable; I didn’t. But the best part of the film is the sheer beauty and majesty of the cinematography and the scenery. Every good pirate movie understands that the sea, the ships and the costumes are characters in themselves, just as Stetson hats, horses, and Monument Valley are characters in every good Western movie. This is where the director’s true feelings about his material show up most; no one who doesn’t feel the beauty of the white sails, the blue sea, and the gently curving palm trees can possibly translate that beauty onto the silver screen. If you think that Ferdinand Fairfax couldn’t have gone wrong shooting on location in Fiji and New Zealand, just look at the hideous footage of Roman Polanski’s Pirates, most of which was shot in dazzling Mediterranean locations. In Nate and Hayes, every hue is vivid, every line crisp. The missionary Williamsons aren’t leading their flock to paradise; they’re in paradise already. Hayes’s men are literally a motley crew, no two alike, from Blake with his beautiful burr and faded U.S. Cavalry uniform to Pegleg with his magnificent skull-and-shinbone prosthesis, to Fong’s mesmerizing eyes and dashing headband. And Hayes’s white costume with red sash and pistol is so beautiful that you can’t blame Sophie for falling in love with him. Piratical tropes and comments: Nate and Hayes lacks most of the standard piratical tropes, mainly because it takes place much later than most pirate movies. Hayes is selling a box full of Winchester 1873 rifles to the rebels in the beginning, and lest we dismiss that as an anachronism, Rittenberg says he is the representative of “Kaiser Wilhelm,” which places the action no earlier than 1871. This means that the opening scene is probably in the Philippines, the only big overseas colony that Spain had left by the 1870s, and the site of many rebellions against Spanish rule. It also suggests that the movie is set before 1898, when the U.S. captured the Philippines in the Spanish-American War. Indeed, it’s not immediately clear that Nate and Hayes is a pirate movie at all. Sure, Hayes bombastically says that he’s a pirate, and the Williamsons say he is, too. But Hayes never actually commits any piracy during the movie, and he says that he never pillaged anything. And the Williamsons are probably mistaking Pease's crimes for Hayes's. If Bully Hayes were tried for piracy, he would probably be acquitted. The only real pirates in this movie are Ben Pease and his men, stealing people and selling them into slavery. The slave trade by this time had specifically been defined as piracy, and that alone would be enough to send Pease to the gallows. No wonder that he says his slaves are “contract laborers.” So, the weapons are different from most pirate movies. The swords are mostly cavalry sabers, with Fong wielding what looks like a hiltless Malay or Javan longsword. (Whatever you may have been told, Fong is not a samurai; there is no such sound as “ng” in Japanese, and that sword is nothing like a katana). Hayes and Pease both use .44 Remington revolvers, while their men rely on caplock muzzle-loading pistols; long arms of any kind are mysteriously absent. The native rebels at the beginning fight with triple-barbed spears, much like Filipino war spears. The Ponopeans use gigantic, impractical--looking spiked war clubs, which I suspect are purely imaginary. Also unique are the ships. The Rona is a gaff-rigged schooner, while Pease’s Leonora is a brig. On both vessels, there are signs that the age of sail is ending: anchors are held by chains instead of manilla cables, the hulls are sleek and low, and neither carries any cannon, not even a swivel gun. The director deliberately contrasts the white, swanlike grace of these two vessels to the smoke-belching ugliness of a German steam-powered gunboat. There are no Jolly Rogers in this picture. Hayes expressly – and quite falsely – says that the skull and crossbones flag is fictional. Nor are there any pirate articles; Hayes rules his crew absolutely, though not heavy-handedly. The only eyepatch that appears is on one of the German sailors. And while one of Hayes's men does have a magnificent peg leg, Hayes and his men aren't really pirates at all. In all, Nate and Hayes shows us just how little of the pirate trappings you need to convey the pirate ethos. No headkerchiefs, no cannons, no bucket-top boots, no flintlocks; just picaresque adventures from one danger to another with dashing heroes in sashes are all you need to give us that Jack Sparrow frisson. Are you ready to match beards with Bully Hayes? Sophie's many talents include lock-picking. Even Jack Sparrow's boat was seaworthier than Nate's. Ben Pease. More brains than, well, you know. The Leonora sweeps out from behind the headland. How many did you get, Fong? Not all women are happy to see Hayes. Best. Peg leg. Ever.
  15. Daniel Reviews Every Pirate Movie Ever Made

    THE SPANISH MAIN (1945) Directed by Frank Gorzage. Featuring: Paul Henreid, Maureen O’Hara, Walter Slezak, Binnie Barnes, John Emery, Barton MacLane, J.M. Kerrigan, Fritz Leiber, Nancy Gates. Daniel’s rating: 2½ out of 5. Synopsis: When a shipful of Dutch immigrants is shipwrecked off Cartagena, the malicious Viceroy Alvarado orders the survivors enslaved. Laurent van Horn, the Dutch immigrants’ captain, escapes and turns to piracy. When van Horn captures Alvarado’s intended bride, the aristocratic Francesca de Guzmán, he decides to marry her and thus goad Alvarado into sending his valuable ships to recover her. Francesca refuses at first, but then strikes a bargain with van Horn: she’ll marry him if he’ll let her consort ship go free. It is so agreed, and the pirate marries the countess. But many of van Horn’s crew are not pleased with their captain’s decision . . . Evaluation: The Spanish Main is a confusing movie. I don’t know whether to be grateful that it’s as good as it is, despite its glaring flaws, or frustrated at all the potential that it wasted. When both the hero and the villain are duds, you know your movie’s in trouble. Van Horn is played by Paul Henreid, best known today for doing Casablanca, where he played Ilsa’s husband Victor Laszlo. But while Henreid’s mild-mannered persona was perfect for Laszlo, he has none of the panache you need to play van Horn. His thick German accent must have sounded right in auditions for a Dutch pirate, but it garbles a lot of his dialogue. And he shows so little lust or passion for his gorgeous leading lady that he might as well have been gay. Meanwhile, the Hitchcockian maxim that a movie can be no better than its villain hits The Spanish Main hard. Don Alvarado is played by the great Walter Slezak, who gives it his best shot, but this part is too clownish to save. All Slezak can do is yuk up his character’s funny parts, most of which are at the beginning. In the opening scene, when van Horn begs Alvarado’s help for the immigrants whose ship has broken up on Cartagena’s rocks, Alvarado answers: “How inconsiderate of my rocks. I’ll have them reprimanded.” Ha ha, but it’s all downhill from there. Alvarado oozes tons of malice, but not an ounce of danger. The only real challenge to van Horn comes from an unexpected quarter that I won’t spoil for you. The bad news doesn’t end there. The dialogue is fluffy and lusterless, and many of the supporting actors, supposedly Spaniards, drawl as if they’ve just stepped off the set of a John Ford cowboy movie. But a number of strong points save The Spanish Main from total failure, with the actresses leading the rescue. Maureen O’Hara, already a pirate movie veteran from Jamaica Inn and The Black Swan, plays Francesca de Guzmán with effortless grace, guzzling her close-ups and bringing verve to what easily could have been a plastic, insipid part. Meanwhile, Binnie Barnes’s Anne Bonney is a fiery dynamo, stealing every scene she gets as the third leg of the love triangle with Francesca and Van Horn. Frank Gorzage’s direction also diverts The Spanish Main from what seems like certain disaster. After a weak opening, the remaining hour and a half move at lightning speed, cramming a very complex plot into just 100 minutes, and rushing the numerous story holes past the viewer so fast that it’s hard to see them. What Gorzage could not do, though, was decide whether he wanted The Spanish Main to be an action film or a comedy. The comic parts he did well; the perfunctory and uninspired action scenes weigh down the laughs. Most of the cast of The Spanish Main were, or would become, pirate movie veterans. O’Hara was the most freebooting of all; she had already featured in Jamaica Inn and The Black Swan, and would go on to star alongside Errol Flynn in Against All Flags. Henreid, in what I can only call a lapse of judgment by the studios, would star in two more pirate movies: 1950’s Last of the Buccaneers, and 1955’s Pirates of Tripoli. Slezak had played a villain in the previous year’s The Princess and the Pirate, and would go on to play Squire Trelawney in Orson Welles’s Treasure Island. And at the ripe old age of 46, Binnie Barnes would net the leading lady role in The Masked Pirate (aka The Pirates of Capri). In all, The Spanish Main is a film that you’ll see either as half full or half empty. O’Hara, Barnes, and the rollicking action are either good enough that you’ll see them as saving the movie, or good enough to leave you wishing the rest of the movie had been worthy of them. Piratical tropes and comments: The Spanish Main’s plot shows a surprising amount of historical research for a 1940s swashbuckler. Spain’s policy of declaring all foreign vessels in the Caribbean interlopers provides Don Alvarado with his excuse for enslaving van Horn and his passengers. Moreover, pirate articles play a larger role in this movie than in any other I know of besides Treasure Island. They are correctly called “articles,” rather than “the rules” as in Stevenson’s story, and it is made clear that Captain van Horn cannot break them at will. We even get to see a pirate duel conducted under these articles, very loosely following Bartholomew Roberts’s eighth article. The Spanish Main pioneers two plot points that Pirates of the Caribbean would later copy: the prisoner finagling the cell keys out of the guard, and the tongueless pirate. The former, though, is less subtle than in POTC; van Horn simply reaches through the bars and throttles his guard. The guard is conveniently holding the keys in his hand, even though he has no reason to be doing this because he is not letting any of the prisoners out. This greatly simplifies the job of grabbing the keys once the guard passes out. There is also a POTCesque revelry-on-Tortuga on scene, where we first meet Anne Bonney and discover what might have happened to her after Rackham’s hanging. On the costuming front, The Spanish Main is as inaccurate and anachronistic as most of the ‘40s swashbucklers. Although the reference to the “viceroyalty of New Granada,” not to mention Anne Bonney, would suggest a setting in the 1720s, the costume flavor is mostly late 17th century, with broad-brimmed plume hats and the usual Monmouth caps that bend backward instead of forward, and few if any tricorns to be seen. Standard-issue justaucorps appear occasionally, but mostly we see puffy-sleeve shirts, which are probably the most accurate part. Swords are the usual whippy rapiers, with no cutlasses to be seen. The duel is conducted with gigantic flintlock horse pistols; Francesca has trouble cocking hers. Nobody wears any wigs. The cat-o’-nine-tails, a regular actor in Nelsonian movies but not often seen in pirate films, puts in an appearance here to flog Captain van Horn. None of the strokes is shown on screen, showing yet again that Gorzage wasn’t sure whether this movie was comedy or action. The ships here are some very nice little models that only rarely reveal their tiny size. Their sails are color-coded for our convenience in telling pirate ships from Spanish ships, and are very 19th-century in their size and shape. But they are accurately shown with lateen mizzens. And, like Frenchman’s Creek, this movie correctly shows the ships being steered with whipstaves. Oddly, the Jolly Roger puts in no appearance at all. Van Horn’s ship Barracuda is flying some kind of flag, but the print I saw was too fuzzy to make out anything about it. In sum, there’s nothing here for the perfectionist re-enactor, but there is plenty of piratical flavor for everybody else. Why, Captain! Anne Bonney will drink Francesca's health. And then try to kill her. The Barracuda evading fire from the Santa Madre. Binnie Barnes's Anne Bonney cuts a more dashing figure than Henreid's van Horn. The course of true love never did run smooth. John Emery shows his moves as Captain Billar. Walter Slezak's Don Alvarado. Fear my incompetence!