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Lloyd Corrigan
Charles Collins, Frank Morgan, Steffi Duna
Writing Credits:
Ray Harris, Francis Edward Faragoh

A Boston dance teacher gets kidnapped into service as a pirate.

Rated NR.

Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
English DTS-HD MA Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 79 min.
Price: $24.95
Release Date: 2/22/2022

• Audio Commentary with Film Historian Jennifer Churchill
• “Glorious Technicolor” Featurette
• “Ambushed By Mediocrity” Featurette
• Still Gallery
• Booklet


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The Dancing Pirate [Blu-Ray] (1936)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 14, 2022)

According to the Blu-ray’s case, 1936’s The Dancing Pirate offered “the first dancing musical in 100% Technicolor!” Does the film boast any appeal beyond this historical value? Read on and see.

Boston resident Jonathan Pride (Charles Collins) finds himself tricked into membership on a pirate ship. This eventually leads Jonathan to California, where he winds up sentenced to death.

However, before Mayor Don Emilio Perena (Frank Morgan) lets Jonathan hang, his daughter Serafina (Steffi Duna) intervenes and insists Jonathan’s execution wait until he teaches her to waltz. This leads Jonathan on a mix of adventures as he attempts to remain alive.

If you never heard of Charles Collins, join the club. Though he worked sporadically from 1932 to 1984, he never made a major mark in front of the camera. Indeed, Collins eventually shifted gears and worked as an agent instead.

I admit that I feel a bit surprised Hollywood didn’t push Collins toward stardom a bit harder, as he showed some talent. However, perhaps the studios thought he didn’t seem magnetic enough to merit much attention.

Given Pirate as evidence, I can’t claim Hollywood made a mistake. With a face that resembled a less handsome Errol Flynn and dancing talents that felt like a less skilled Fred Astaire, Collins comes across like a man who possessed some talent but who lacked the “It Factor” to turn into a star.

That said, I find it tough to imagine Flynn and/or Astaire could’ve done much with the meager meal we find from Pirate. The movie throws a lot at the screen but little of it sticks.

Pirate offers a mix of genres, as it blends light adventure, comedy, music and dance into one package. Unfortunately, it never does much to succeed in any of these domains, as all feel vaguely competent but largely forgettable.

The story rarely makes a lick of sense, and neither the action scenes nor the production numbers allow us to ignore the silly “plot”. Pirate really does try to showcase Collins as an Astaire-in-Training, but he lacks the charm to accomplish this goal.

For instance, early in the film, we see Collins do a tap dance number as he extinguishes candles in a room. While Astaire probably would’ve brought charm and verve to the scene, Collins just feels pedestrian.

Again, I don’t want to place too much blame for the mediocrity of Pirate on Collins, as everything about the film comes across as forgettable. Even at a mere 79 minutes, the “story” gets stretched too thin, and I think the tale would’ve worked better as a 20-minute short.

Pirate never becomes a truly poor movie, but it also fails to find much to make it succeed. This becomes a wholly forgettable cinematic experience.

The Disc Grades: Picture C/ Audio C-/ Bonus C+

The Dancing Pirate appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.37:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Expect a watchable but mediocre presentation.

For the most part, sharpness worked fairly well. Some softness crept into the image at time and it never quite looked tremendously distinctive, but the movie offered reasonably positive delineation.

No signs of jagged edges or moiré effects materialized, but light edge haloes appeared. I saw only minor print flaws – like a couple small nicks – but grain felt uncomfortable and awkward.

Despite the use of the Technicolor process, hues appeared surprisingly dull. Occasionally the tones boasted decent punch, but they usually seemed somewhat wan and bland.

Blacks tended to come across as crushed, while shadows appeared a bit murky. Given the movie’s age, I thought this was an adequate image, but it didn’t excel in any way.

In a similar vein, the film’s DTS-HD MA monaural audio came with plenty of issues. Background noise and hiss dominated.

Quality also didn’t work well, as speech sounded edgy and sibilant. Music and effects appeared rough and shrill as well. Again, the advanced age of the material softened my expectations and left this as a “C-“ rating, but the audio still felt problematic.

A few extras appear here, and we get an audio commentary from film historian Jennifer Churchill. She presents a running, screen-specific discussion of the film’s genre, cast and crew, and some historical notes.

Prior Churchill commentaries seemed superficial and this one continues that trend. Actually, Churchill proves a bit more informative than in the past, but not to a substantial degree.

Most of the material feels like it could easily be grabbed from IMDB and Wikipedia, and Churchill spends too much time on her affection for the film. This becomes a forgettable commentary.

Two featurettes follow, and Glorious Pioneers spans eight minutes, 57 seconds and provides a history of Technicolor processes, with some notes about Dancing Pirate as well. It delivers a pretty tight overview.

Ambushed By Mediocrity runs eight minutes, 13 seconds and brings notes from historian Michael Schlesinger as he covers aspects of the Pirate production. As implied by the title, we get less of the usual praise than usual, but Schlesinger delivers a fairly even-handed take on the flick.

The disc also provides a Still Gallery. A running montage, it gives us 56 images, most of which show promotional materials, though we get some shots from the production as well. These look surprisingly good and become a nice compilation.

Finally, a booklet completes the package. It includes an essay from Churchill, as she discusses actor Charles Collins and aspects of the production. The booklet offers a decent complement.

As an early three-color Technicolor effort, The Dancing Pirate earns some attention for historical reasons. As a film, though, this becomes a bland mix of music, comedy and adventure that does little to endear itself to the audience. The Blu-ray offers moderately problematic picture and audio as well as a mix of bonus materials. I didn’t actively dislike my time with Pirate, but the movie left me cold.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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