Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Welcome back to the fight. This time I know our side will win. Arrr!

Like most people, I usually associate Paul Henreid with Victor Laszlo in Casablanca. What I learned on his birthday a couple of weeks ago (January 10th, if you care) when TCM ran a Paul Henreid marathon was that he also did some pirate movies. I watched one and a half of them.

The Pirates of Tripoli was unwatchable, so I gave up part way through it and watched the rest in fast forward. Henreid is supposed to be a swashbuckling rogue, but he's as stiff and straightlaced as you'd expect the guy who played Victor Laszlo to be. What came off as stylish and inspiring in Casablanca is really sort of pathetic for a pirate captain. That, plus a lot of unnecessary voiceover narration explaining what you're already seeing on the screen, bored the crap out of me.

The Last of the Buccaneers was better. Henreid plays Jean Lafitte in the story of what happened to the pirate captain between his success in the War of 1812 and his being driven out of Galveston. Since Lafitte apparently didn't think of himself as a pirate, but more as a gentleman privateer, Henreid's stiffness is more appropriate and he recaptures some of the inspirational quality you saw in Casablanca. You can understand why Lafitte's men follow him.

There are a lot of plot holes and historical inaccuracies, but whatever. The sets are great and the supporting cast is very good. Jack Oakie and John Dehner are especially as entertaining as Lafitte's right- and left-hand men.

Pirates of Tripoli gets one out of five Yo Hos.

Last of the Buccaneers gets three out of five Spanish galleons.

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