Douglas Fairbanks Double Feature — Robin Hood/The Black Pirate (Blu-ray Review)

REVIEW OVERVIEW

The Film (Robin Hood)
The Film (The Black Pirate)
The Video (Robin Hood)
The Video (The Black Pirate)
The Audio (Robin Hood & The Black Pirate)
The Supplements
Overall

SUMMARY

Two swashbuckling silent film classics starring Douglas Fairbanks, including one of the earliest "natural color" feature film productions in 'The Black Pirate.'

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

This Douglas Fairbanks Double Feature includes two of the legendary silent film stars most popular, most swashbuckling productions: Robin Hood (1922) and The Black Pirate (1926). The sets for the former required 500 carpenters, rose 90-feet high, and spread across acres of land. It captured as best as was possible at the time the minute details of the historical era in which it was set. The story follows the common story we most know, wherein Robin Hood (Fairbanks), still the Earl of Huntington when we first meet him, becomes a rebel vigilante standing against the usurper Prince John (Sam De Grasse) and his minion Sir Guy of Gisbourne (Paul Dickey). Meanwhile, while working with his band of followers stealing from the rich and giving to the poor, Robin romances the beautiful Maid Marian (Enid Bennett).

The second up on this collection is The Black Pirate, shot in two-strip Technicolor, it was one of the earliest “natural color” films and an equally swashbuckling adventure. In this dazzling color film from nearly a century ago, Fairbanks plays a young nobleman whose father was killed by pirates. Vowing revenge, he infiltrates a group of pirates and takes them out in a number of sword-wielding duels. The Black Pirate was considered a return to form for Fairbanks who had eschewed doing more adventure films for a few years in favor of a number of comedies. It still holds up today as a model and major influence on the swashbuckling genre.

  • Douglas Fairbanks in Robin Hood (1922)
  • Douglas Fairbanks in Robin Hood (1922)
  • Robin Hood (1922)
  • Douglas Fairbanks in The Black Pirate (1926)
  • Douglas Fairbanks in The Black Pirate (1926)
  • The Black Pirate (1926)

The Video

For Robin Hood, a 35mm fine grain positive was scanned at 4K, with 175 hours of digital clean-up in 2K. The Black Pirate was mastered in HD from the 35mm color negative. Both films are presented in 1.33:1 AVC 1080p encodements.

Given these films are both around a century old, the picture cannot be expected to look pristine, but with those caveats, these both look amazing and quite organic with as little source damage as possible. There is good detail and nuance. The Black Pirate is the standout of the two films for its two-strip Technicolor restoration that shows more color and fine detail than a film so old has any right to do.

The Audio

The orchestral score for each of these silent films is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo. The sound of the orchestra is a little too close for my taste and the dynamic range sounds just a little narrow for orchestral music, but otherwise it sounds pleasant.

The Supplements

  • Audio commentary for The Black Pirate by film historian Rudy Behlmer
  • The Black Pirate Outtakes with commentary by Rudy Behlmer (1080i; 00:18:06)
  • Additional Outtakes for The Black Pirate (1080i; 00:29:05

The Final Assessment

Cohen Film Collection has embarked on a campaign of releasing many classic films from the silent era, including those from Douglas Fairbanks. This double feature has two of Fairbanks’ most successful and ambitious films looking exceptional in their new restorations for films 100-years-old.


Douglas Fairbanks Double Feature: Robin Hood / The Black Pirate is out on Blu-ray July 25, 2023 from Cohen Film Collection


  • Rating Certificate: Not Rated
  • Studios & Distributors: Douglas Fairbanks Pictures | United Artists | Cohen Film Collection
  • Director: Allan Dwan (Robin Hood) | Albert Parker (The Black Pirate)
  • Written By: Robin Hood: Douglas Fairbanks | Kenneth Davenport | Allan Dwan | The Black Pirate: Douglas Fairbanks | Jack Cunningham
  • Run Time: 133 Mins. (Robin Hood) | 95 Mins. (The Black Pirate)
  • Street Date: 25 July 2023
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Video Format: AVC 1080p
  • Primary Audio: DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo
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Two swashbuckling silent film classics starring Douglas Fairbanks, including one of the earliest "natural color" feature film productions in 'The Black Pirate.'Douglas Fairbanks Double Feature -- Robin Hood/The Black Pirate (Blu-ray Review)