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All Day Entertainment presents
The Pirates of Capri (1949)

"The announcement of Scirocco's capture will break the back of the revolution!"
- Baron von Holstein (Rudolph Serato)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: December 31, 2000

Stars: Louis Hayward, Mariella Lotti, Rudolph Serato
Other Stars: Binnie Barnes, Alan Curtis, Mikhail Rasumny
Director: Edgar G. Ulmer

Manufacturer: Complete Post
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (violence, torture)
Run Time: 01h:34m:54s
Release Date: December 19, 2000
UPC: 014381976328
Genre: action

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

All Day Entertainment presents the fourth in its continuing series of DVDs devoted to the career of Edgar G. Ulmer, and here we see a side of the auteur not previously displayed: the historical adventure with lavish production values and for once, a sizeable budget. Best known for shoestring features and ultra-low-budget but highly artistic quickies, Ulmer here got to really stretch with an amount of money and time rarely matched in his career. He shows himself able to use the budget effectively, making for an enjoyable little romp.

Shot upon his return to the ruins of fascist Europe, The Pirates of Capri is not so much a pirate film as a liberal call to arms against the forces of oppression. Only the brisk opening sequence takes place at sea, but it is satisfyingly swashbuckling, with a goodly amount of swordplay and swinging on ropes in the grand style. Set in the years shortly after the French Revolution, the film features the adventures of a Zorro-like figure, Captain Scirocco (Louis Hayward). The masked man and his crew seizes a ship captained by Commodore van Diel (Alan Curtis), and makes off with the arms intended for the unsteady Queen of Naples, Maria Carolina (Binnie Barnes), sister of the doomed Marie Antoinette. Scirocco is secretly the foppish Count Amalfi, who is a member of the Queen's court and thus privy to secret information. Amalfi/Scirocco is leading a band of revolutionaries, based on the Isle of Capri. Determined to capture the mystery man is Baron von Holstein (Rudolph Serato), the Queen's tyrannical and brutal chief of police.

While this seems rather like Zorro in Southern Europe, the film is nonetheless quite entertaining albeit derivative. Hayward has a great deal of fun in his dual role, and Serato is deliciously wicked as the villainous chief of police. Barnes does well as the neurotic and rightfully-paranoid Queen ("Never mention The People to me again!"). Newcomer Mariella Lotti is Mercedes de Lopez, Amalfi's singularly uninteresting fiancée. Some of the rebels are so wooden that a cast picked off the street could have done better, whether or not they spoke English. The swordplay is accomplished (Ulmer believed his actors should know how to fence, thus making the result that much more credible) though there isn't enough to satisfy most pirate fans. The concluding duel to the death is highly satisfying, against a tapestry of the torch-bearing mob as the revolution gets under way.

One notable fact about this picture is that it was composer Nino Rota's first film score. Although his main title theme is derivative from Handel's Pastoral Symphony from The Messiah, the action sequences are given a rowdy vitality that clearly foreshadows Rota's later career as one of the foremost film composers.

Though still not quite an "A" picture, Ulmer does a very nice job with a higher budget and gives us a beautifully-shot and quite entertaining little film. The script contains a number of clever features, such as Amalfi's subtle hints to others as to his secret identify, and the parallel of the naming of various aristocrats upon arrival to a ball with the listing of rebels condemned to be hanged

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The black and white photography of Ulmer comes through with breathtaking clarity in this transfer. Blacks are incredibly rich, and a wide range of greys is visible. Contrast is good without being overwhelming. The source print is absolutely gorgeous, with only an occasional speckle and two or three abrupt reel changes detracting from a perfect viewing experience. Ulmer's use of light, dark and shadow has seldom been better served than on this disc.

Image Transfer Grade: A


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The mono sound is unfortunately plagued by hiss and crackle which is often distracting. Rota's music is tinny and sounds distorted. The bosun's whistle absolutely pierces the ears, while the singing of the rebels is a muddy mess. Dialogue is generally clear, however, saving this from a failing grade.

Audio Transfer Grade: C-


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 21 cues and remote access
1 Documentaries
Packaging: Alpha
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL
Layers Switch: 00h:32m:24s

Extra Extras:
  1. Swiss Family Robinson TV series pilot from 1958
  2. Photos and promo materials
Extras Review: A specially-produced documentary, In Search of the Pirates of Capri (16m:55s) features interviews with Ulmer's widow (recently deceased) and daughter, as well as the daughter of the producer. Unfortunately, none of them have much of substance to say about the making of the film; their reminiscences are largely confined to how cold it was and that they stayed in a whorehouse and Taranto during filming. Just as daughter Arianne begins to discuss Ulmer as an early adoptee of the auteur movement in France and things start to get interesting, the documentary abruptly stops.

More interesting is a color pilot of a projected television series based on The Swiss Family Robinson. Never before seen, the program is attractively shot, although the color has now yellowed badly. The episode, entitled "Lost in the Jungle" takes place the day after the shipwreck and follows the family as they attempt to survive their first day on the island, no thanks to the added-on orphan girl Alice McDowell, who persists in getting into trouble culminating in getting half the family lost in the titular jungle. The casting is peculiar; the father sounds as if he's from South Carolina, hardly appropriate for a Swiss man (though one of the boys does wear liederhosen, in the sole gesture towards the Swiss origins of the story). One can see why this wasn't picked up for a series, but it makes for moderately entertaining viewing from this point in time. Unfortunately, All Day has included an onscreen logo throughout the presentation of this program.

Rounding out the package is a set of behind-the-scenes photos (nearly all of which also appear in the documentary) and promotional materials for the film. Two criticisms of the menu design: the link back to the main menu was unaccountably left off of the Special Features menu, making it impossible to get back to the film without stopping the disc and meandering through the FBI warnings again. The second issue is the scene index only permits one to view the scene titles one at a time; as you scan through the list, successive scene titles become visible. This is awkward for finding a particular scene, and while flashy, it gets in the way of the presentation.

Extras Grade: C


Final Comments

An entertaining, though disappointingly land-based, little adventure film, given a beautiful video transfer but a less attractive audio track. The extras are interesting as well. Definitely worth a rental.


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