Kendra Steiner Editions (Bill Shute)

November 17, 2013

Dean Reed in “The Corsairs” (Italy/Spain 1970, dir. Ferdinando Baldi)

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THE CORSAIRS (aka Los Corsarios, aka Les Pirates d l’ile Verte—Spain/Italy 1970)

directed by Ferdinando Baldi

starring Dean Reed, with Alberto DeMendoza, Annabella Incontrera, Mary Francis (aka Paca Gabaldon)

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Director Ferdinando Baldi is probably best-known in North America for the films he made with Tony Anthony–Blindman, Comin’ At Ya, Get Mean, and Treasure of the Four Crowns–films that show a director with a good sense of humor and a skill for over-the-top visuals. Yet Baldi’s earlier work indicates that he can create understated and thoughtful films such as IN THE SHADOW OF EAGLES with Cameron Mitchell, which I happened to watch again last week, and which was a downbeat, somber meditation on the futility of war. And he’s credited with co-directing Duel of Champions with Alan Ladd (Terence Young’s is the only name on the English-language print I’ve seen of the film), one of the more thoughtful films in the peplum genre, given a lot more depth by having an actor of Alan Ladd’s caliber as star. I’ve seen 4 or 5 other of his films  beyond those listed above (Texas, Adios, for instance), but clearly, I need to investigate his work further. Surely there are some gems I have not seen.

1970’s THE CORSAIRS is a fast-moving, light-hearted swashbuckling film that exists somewhere between the Three Musketeers comedies made a few years later in the UK by Richard Lester and the lowbrow humor of a Terence Hill/Bud Spencer vehicle. It’s definitely played on a comic-book level (and the music helps to set that jokey tone) and also has the feel of the old Republic serials, with the constant set-backs and reversals and fights with a lot of broken furniture.

These kind of films need a handsome, athletic, charismatic, and self-deprecating actor to play the hero, and DEAN REED succeeds in all those areas as Alan Drake, pirate with a conscience and an eye for the ladies, a role not too different from his turn as Ballantine in ADIOS, SABATA (aka INDIO BLACK) the year before. Dean Reed fans will enjoy his performance here, as I did.

Reed also did a film two years later, “Storia di karatè, pugni e fagioli,” directed by Tonino Ricci, which I have not seen, but which seems to have a swashbuckling element to it, and which was one of Reed’s final films before his moving over to the Eastern Bloc to work.

Fans of 60s European costumed historical adventures, the kind that would have starred Guy Madison had they been made in 1962, should enjoy this film….a rather late entry in the genre…and it offers an entertaining vehicle for Dean Reed. As a fan of both that genre of film AND of Dean Reed, I was very happy with the film. It’s not without flaws (the music gets somewhat repetitive), but a film with a good sense of humor allows one to forget such flaws. A little internet surfing should turn up a copy on DVD-R…

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