The Black Pirates (1954) and Massacre (1956)

April 25th, 2024
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir: Allen H Miner | Cast: Anthony Dexter, Martha Roth, Lon Chaney Jr, Robert Clarke | US Action Drama 74’

As others have observed the budget for this 18th Century yarn about buried treasure didn’t even run to a ship so the pirates of the title arrive by rowboat; what visual grandeur it possessed instead supplied by the El Salvador locations elegantly and vividly shot in Ansco Color by cinematographer Gilbert Warrenton (a process that highlighted the worldly charms of a young lady by the name of Marta Roth as a worldly serving wench whose red lipstick matches her dress and proves pretty sharp with a broken bottle).

The pirates themselves certainly are a mean and ugly bunch (aided by the presence of a leering Alfonso Bedoya), while in a film shot closer to home the scenes of bloodshed and flogging would surely have encountered greater problems with the Breen Office.

Massacre (1956)

Dir: Louis King | Cast: Martha King, Dane Clark, James Craig, Miguel Torruco | US Western 76’

Having visited El Salvador to make ‘The Black Pirates’ producer Robert Lippert’s later depiction of criminal activity moved inland (once again employing Gilbert Warrenton’s fluid Ansco Color location photography to compensate for lack of more substantial production values) to Mexico where he once again availed himself of the talents of Mexican actress Martha Roth, who unlike the glossy serving wench she played in ‘The Black Pirates’ this time superficially appears at first glance a more robust young lady, and gets to show herself quite a horsewoman; while for the cognoscenti the presence of Luis Bunuel’s Man Friday Jaime Fernandez is worth noting.

The film also marks a considerable departure from the wholesome Technicolor family entertainment usually associated with director Louis King; the cynical tone of his final film firmly established from the outset by the opening sequence depicting a funeral cortège which turns out to be carrying illicit rifles. @RichardChatten


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