Like his MGM counterpart Robert Taylor, the extremely handsome Tyrone Power was often put into tough, action-packed roles to alternate with his routine matinee idol leading man romances. His swashbuckling The Black Swan which was released in 1942 isn’t as exciting or involving as The Mark of Zorro which was released two years earlier, but it shows Fox’s biggest male star still able to brandish a blade with aplomb, drink and carouse with his cohorts, and inevitably win the fair damsel by the final fadeout. The action scenes are a great deal more involving than the romantic ones in the film, and its relatively brief running time is a blessing for those of us who tired very quickly of the battle of the sexes between the two leading players.
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Audio: English 1.0 DTS-HDMA (Mono), Spanish 1.0 DD (Mono), French 1.0 DD (Mono)
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 1 Hr. 25 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-raykeep case
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 12/03/2013
Jamie Waring (Tyrone Power) is one of the most notorious of the English buccaneers sailing the seas under his leader Captain Henry Morgan (Laird Cregar). When King Charles names Morgan to be the new governor of Jamaica replacing the crooked Lord Denby (George Zucco), Jamie comes along as his second-in-command even losing his heart to Denby’s frosty daughter Margaret (Maureen O'Hara). But another English pirate, the red-bearded Captain Billy Leech (George Sanders), refuses to leave the life of pirating so he and his first mate Wogan (Anthony Quinn) head back to sea and begin attacking British ships which they somehow know are heavily loaded with priceless cargo. They’re being fed information by Denby’s right-hand man, his daughter’s fiancé Roger Ingram (Edward Ashley) for a cut of the profits, but when Denby tries to blame the looting on Morgan and Waring, Jamie sets out to capture the pirates and clear their names.
The Production Rating: 4/5
The film features just about every trope of a pirate film you’d expect including surprise attacks, duels with swords, and ships-at-sea combat with the Jolly Roger on full display. It’s all staged very professionally by director Henry King (George Sanders and Tyrone Power engage in two sensational sword fights: the former rather curtailed by events in the film but the latter a lengthy affair which covers several levels of the ship) with the accent on fast pacing and non-stop action. But the “romantic” encounters between Power and Maureen O’Hara are as tedious as they are predictable (she bites and slugs him with a rock in their first two encounters). She can’t stand him (or pretends not to like him) for most of the movie, but he promises her she’ll be asking for him by the end of the adventure, so naturally we know how their relationship will end. The skullduggery her fiancé Ingram is up to with Leech isn’t given enough development in the script by Ben Hecht and Seton I. Miller; they don’t even show the guilty party getting his comeuppance in front of his former love making for something of an unsatisfactory conclusion.
Tyrone Power was very comfortable in this kind of high seas adventure film at this point in his career, and his performance is jaunty and full of brio. Thomas Mitchell as his best friend Tommy Blue likewise seems to be enjoying himself immensely. It’s nice to see Laird Cregar as the commanding governor taking matters into his own hands when it appears Jamie is faltering at his assignment. George Sanders and Anthony Quinn both seem to relish their misadventures throughout the movie with the pirate a nice change of pace for Sanders who usually played more urbane cads. Maureen O'Hara plays her part tartly as written, but one wishes women at the time weren’t written as such simpletons who couldn’t spot a phony (her fiancé played by Edward Ashley) who’s so slimy he leaves a trail of ooze at his every appearance.
The film has been framed at 1.33:1 and is presented in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. There is certainly nothing wrong with the sharpness which is excellent throughout (one can see the wrinkles in the water tank backdrop for the at-sea ship shots), but with the horrifically lacking color elements Fox has been left to work with, the color isn’t very satisfying (a double shame since the film won the Oscar for color cinematography in 1942). The best color you’ll see is in the still shot that serves as the menu background for the disc. On the transfer, skin tones vary from purplish pink to brown throughout, and the contrast levels vary enough to turn blacks to gray and cause crushed blacks constantly (many scenes were shot in low light). The transfer is clean as can be, however, but the obvious effort that went into making the transfer the best it can be does result in a mediocre result through no fault of the Fox engineers. The film has been divided into 20 chapters.
Video Rating: 3/5 3D Rating: NA
The DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 sound mix is solid if lacking slightly in fidelity. The cannon fire and Alfred Newman’s Oscar-nominated background score doesn’t quite have the dynamism that other films on disc from the period contain (Blood and Sand, also on Blu-ray, has a much more vivid mix on the released disc). Dialogue has been expertly recorded and is not compromised by the music or sound effects that share the track.
Audio Rating: 3.5/5
Audio Commentary: film historian Rudy Behlmer and star Maureen O’Hara talk about the film and her Hollywood career. It’s also clear that in the silent spots between their comments, Behlmer has gone back in and filled in some historical commentary about the movie and other studio lore.
Special Features Rating: 2/5
Theatrical Trailer (2:39, SD)
Not the best of Tyrone Power’s swashbucklers but certainly an entertaining popcorn picture, The Black Swan unfortunately falls victim to Fox’s loss of its three-strip Technicolor elements leaving behind only a faint reminder of what the stunning film must have looked like in its day.
Overall Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewed By: Matt Hough
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