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black pirates poster

Who needs a real pirate ship?!

What’s more fun to watch than a B-movie produced by Robert L. Lippert?  A double-feature produced by TWO Robert L. Lippert’s (Sr. and Jr.), both featuring B-movie stalwart Robert Clarke, one filmed in AnscoColor with Lon Chaney, Jr. as a priest, and with a script  by Star Trek producer Fred Freiberger.  Oh, and a rowboat for a “ship”!   With a lineup like that, who needs Douglas Fairbanks, Errol Flynn, or even a real pirate ship?

I’d about given up hope of finding color film elements on “The Black Pirates” (Lippert/1954) until a few years ago when my friend, producer Sam Sherman, revealed he had been storing the original negative for decades under the Spanish release title, “El Pirata Negro.”  It came into Sam’s possession this way:  In the mid 1940s, Robert L. Lippert and William Pizor formed Screen Guild Productions, which later became Lippert Pictures.  Pizor was in charge of international sales.  (Pizor founded two low budget studios)

In 1954, Lippert acquired distribution rights for seven years to “The Black Pirates,” which was co-produced by Robert L. Lippert, Jr. and Mexican producer, Ollalo Rubio, under the banner of Salvador Films Corp.  For some unknown reason “The Black Pirates” negative ended up in Pizor’s film vault.

Pizor’s son, Irwin, also a producer, took over the vault after the elder Pizor died in 1959, and Sam Sherman maintains it to this day.

Sam gave me the negative. Thank you, Sam!

But, there were problems:  the AnscoColor negative had excellent color, but it had odd looking streaks in some of the reels.  Poor lab work?  (It was done in Mexico)  Improperly stored?  For sure.  Lippert Jr. told me the negative had been stored under hot and humid conditions in El Salvador where the film was mostly shot.  Since I don’t like releasing movies with blemishes, the DVD release was tabled until hopefully a good print or some other usable element could be found.

Then, in 2016, another old friend, Wade Williams, gave me an original 35mm color print, and it had those same blemishes!  Conclusion:  The movie must have been shown in theatres with the same imperfections I’d rejected for a DVD release.   Tiffany Clayton* has done the digital restoration work on the majority of my movies and she tasked with fixing this one, and the resulting image is probably better than when it looked in theatres.

black pirates trailer

One other thing, only the Spanish main and end titles survived, so we used them.  No big deal.

The difficulties I had in locating good film materials is nothing to what Lippert, Jr. endured while producing the movie.  He told me the movie was “shit.”  The experience, yes, the movie – not nearly so bad.   Find out exactly what he had to say about making the movie in a reenacted interview as part of the DVD special features.

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SWASHBUCKLER DOUBLE-FEATURE from The Sprocket Vault

“The Black Pirates” (1954)

Cast: Anthony Dexter, Robert Clarke, Martha Roth, Lon Chaney, Jr., Toni Gerry, Víctor Manuel Mendoza

Location filming in El Salvador highlights this hot blooded tale of pirates landing in a Latin American town in search of buried treasure, and learning that a church was built over the spot. A pirate chief enslaves the townspeople and forces them to dig for it–but more twists lie ahead.  Script by Star Trek producer Fred Freiberger.

74 min | Color | 1.87:1/widescreen | NR

“Tales of Robin Hood” (1952)

Cast: Robert Clarke, Mary Hatcher, Paul Cavanagh, Wade Crosby, Whit Bissell, Ben Welden, Robert Bice

In 12th-century Nottinghamshire, ruthless tax collectors oppress the simple folk. Meanwhile, deep in the shadows of Sherwood Forest, a new hero is born: Robin Hood a sharp-witted swashbuckler joined by his Merry Men steals from the rich and gives to the poor–AND, on his own, romances the lovely Maid Marian.  Some scenes were filmed on the set of “Joan of Arc” (1950). Originally produced as a TV pilot, but released theatrically.

1952 | 60 min | B&W | 1.37:1 |NR

Bonus Features:

Interviews with Robert L. Lippert, Jr. and Robert Clarke by Tom Weaver (reenactments)

Original trailer to “The Black Pirates”

 Order DVD on Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06ZZFBT15

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*You can find more restoration work by Tiffany Clayton on her LinkedIn profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/tiffanyclayton/

 

 

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