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Blu-ray Review Black Sails Season 1 Blu-ray Review (1 Viewer)

Timothy E

Jul 20, 2007
Real Name
Timothy Ewanyshyn
Black Sails Season 1 Blu-ray Review

Long John Silver(Luke Arnold) in Black Sails is as distant from Robert Newton's Harrrr-ty seadog as he possibly could be in the Starz Channel's high budget prequel to Robert Louis Stevenson's novel Treasure Island. Michael Bay(Transformers, The Rock) is an executive producer of this slick and gritty pirate series set in the West Indies of the early 18th Century.

Studio: Anchor Bay

Distributed By: Starz

Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

Audio: English 7.1 Dolby TrueHD, Spanish 2.0 DD, French 2.0 DD

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish

Rating: Not Rated

Run Time: 7 Hr. 36 Min.

Package Includes: Blu-ray, Digital Copy

Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)

Region: A

Release Date: 01/06/2015

MSRP: $39.95

The Production Rating: 3.5/5

Years before Jim Hawkins discovered a pirate map and encountered the likes of Long John Silver, John Silver(Luke Arnold) was a cook serving under pirate captain James Flint(Toby Stephens). In 1715, pirate effectively ran New Providence Island in the Bahamas. Richard Guthrie(Sean Cameron Michael) is the Governor and also the most successful black marketer in the Bahamas. Guthrie's daughter Eleanor(Hannah New) is his manager in Nassau who runs a tavern and fronts his black market activities. In Black Sails, the fictional Captain Flint and Long John Silver interact with actual historical pirates such as Jack Rackham(Toby Schmitz), Charles Vane(Zack McGowan), and Anne Bonny(Clara Paget).

Captain Flint senses that the forces of civilization will be blowing through the West Indies soon, and his efforts are focused on locating the Urca de Lima, a Spanish galleon loaded with treasure. This treasure is the MacGuffin for the series, as various players battle and compete for money and power.

Black Sails is an intriguing look at the world of piracy that retains some of the fantasy and glamor of the genre even while being gritty and avoiding the fantastic elements of the Pirates of the Caribbean films. Toby Stephens brings an intensity to his role of Captain Flint that suits the character. Early in the series while Flint's main goal is to obtain a page missing from a journal that will provide the location of the treasure, he is forced to confront a power play within his own crew that makes Flint demonstrate why he has the strength and intelligence to maintain control of his ship and crew. There is a large cast of characters and their interactions and conflicts provide much dramatic ballast for the series. The production values are top-notch, from the costumes to the set design. Black Sails represents the pinnacle of this genre in television. Although the language, violence, and nudity will not be to every viewer's taste, anyone who desires a gritty and entertaining look at the golden age of piracy will find much to enjoy in Black Sails.

Black Sails was created by Robert Levine and Jonathan E. Steinberg, who collaborated previously on Jericho and Human Target. The producers have gone to great lengths to avoid the clichés of other films and TV series in the pirate genre and created a gritty and more realistic world that deglamorizes the history of piracy without actually taking all of the glamor and fantasy out of it. All 8 episodes of the first season are included on 3 discs in this release.

Video Rating: 4.5/5  3D Rating: NA

Black Sails appears on Blu-ray in 1080p using the AVC codec in its original 1.78:1 aspect ratio as originally broadcast on Starz. Colors are vibrant and contrast is crisp with fine detail strong in evidence. Blacks are solid without any apparent black crush. The video is excellent overall with blendless seaming of live action with CGI backgrounds.

Audio Rating: 5/5

The Dolby TrueHD 7.1 audio delivers a rich aural experience. Directional audio is well employed and the ambient sounds of the cities and the seas create a verisimilitude of this 18th Century world. The soundtrack by Bear McCreary(Battlestar Galactica, The Walking Dead) has full dynamic range and the orchestrations include an authentic 18th Century instrument, the hurdy gurdy, which plays prominently in the theme song of the credits. Dialogue is always appropriately audible, although various accents may be challenging for some viewers to comprehend.

Special Features Rating: 2/5

Special features are included on Disc 3 and include all of the following:

Black Sails: A First Look(9:03): Cast and crew are interviewed in this featurette that was broadcast originally on Starz to promote the series.

Dressed To Kill(1:44): Brief showcase of the costume design for Black Sails.

Pirate Camp(2:23): Cast and stunt coordinators talk about the extensive physical training for the series.

Folklore is Finished(3:26): Cast discuss the deliberate avoidance of clichés from other pirate films and series.

A Place In History(1:31): Hakeem Kae-Kazim(Mr. Scott) talks about the context of slavery as it relates to piracy in the 18th Century West Indies.

Building the Behemoth(3:05): The intricate detail of the pirate ship sets is demonstrated in this featurette.

Also included is a paper insert with a redemption code for digital download of all 8 episodes of season 1.

Overall Rating: 3.5/5

Black Sails Season 1 arrives on Blu-ray to coincide with the broadcast premiere of Season 2 on Starz. (Season 3 is already in production in South Africa for its broadcast in 2016.) The video and audio presentation are excellent on this 3 disc set. The special features are worthwhile and interesting, but minimal, and leave the viewer wanting more. The blood and guts realism of the series will not be to every viewer's tastes, but are certainly appropriate for the subject matter. This is definitely a quality production in every respect, from cast and writing to set design and beyond. Black Sails is recommended to those who appreciate action and drama, whether it be in the pirate genre or elsewhere.

Reviewed By: Timothy E

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