Commentary – Raiders of the Seven Seas

I’ve taken to watching old pirate movies and commenting on them.  Since commenting on such things to myself lacks a certain entertainment value, I’ve decided to share it with others.

Credits rolled over a barren map of the Atlantic Ocean… That’s at least one of the seas. Glad we got that out of the way right off the bat.  I can’t wait until we see the other six.As the show began we saw the opening scrawl, on a scroll…  A scrawl on a scroll. Remember when movies really felt they needed to contextualize the events that we were about to watch? I’m so glad I got this information or else I would have been really confused!

“Since man’s earliest venturings (sic) upon the Oceans ~~~ Into the icy breakers of the North ~~ Or the warm waters of the Golden Gulf… Have come down wondrous tales of Raiders of the Seven Seas.

Barbarossa was one of them …. Sailing recklessly through the Sevententh Century, from India’s Ocean to the Caribees. Today he still lives in hundreds of legends…

This is one.”

Allow me to reiterate, because this was such a complex concept. Ever since man took to the sea, people have told stories about people doings stuff on the seas. Some of these stories were about Barbarossa. And this movie represents one of them.  Got that? Wow. That was so complex that I’m glad it was clarified.

It began, apparently, according to the title card… in Morocco…  …in The Palace of the Sultan…. So far, this movie has used more ellipsis than I have ever… well… almost ever….

Of course, once a Sultan is introduced we must see the Sultan’s harem. Oh my… look at the bevy of beautiful babes in this harem! And so obedient, too. Alas, one of these women who was to be wed to the Sultan, his 13th wife or something, had spent a bit too much time with the Sultan’s naval commander, Barbarossa.

Meanwhile, a Spanish ship was becalmed off the coast and the Sultan wants his men to do piratey things to it but alas they won’t because they wanted to be led by Barbarossa, who can’t be found so the Sultan ordered him put to death.  A sound, reasonable policy for a missing person, though it might have something to do with that night with the Sultan’s future wife.  This point wasn’t clarified and I really thought it should have been included in the opening scrawl.

The Sultans men chased Barbarossa through the dessert. Barbarossa went all Bugs Bunny on his pursuers.  After knocking one off his horse, he stole the horse and rode to the beach.  Obviously for a relaxing day but he saw a ship on the ocean… at least we are led to believe he saw a ship.  The camera cut to a ship, Barbarossa then took a knife out of its sheath on his belt, put it between his teeth, stripped off his shirt and ran to the ocean, where no ship appeared.

  

By the way, it’s a fact swimming with a knife in your mouth increases your speed by 28%.  #themoreyouknow

Barbarossa swam to the becalmed ship and we learned, as the Captain slapped awake the man tied to the steering wheel that this ship is the Spanish ship the Sultan mentioned a few moments ago.  See how all this ties together so nicely?With nary a fight, Barbarossa seized the ship, discovered it carried prisoners of Spain to be sold as slaves on the isle of Tortuga.  Barbarossa freed the slaves and gave them a speech about how the world was their oyster and if they opened it they would find happiness, freedom, wealth all glistening in one small pearl. Theirs for the taking!  It would take strong arms, stout hearts and sharp knives to cut loose that pearl. I believe this will be the new Republican Party platform.  Of course it failed to point out that there would be only one pearl in that oyster.  1% get the pearl, the rest get slimy oyster innards. Perfect for the faulty GOP.

A few sentences into voyage to the Carribees and Barbarossa summing up his life for the steersman of the ship when the crew of ex-prisoners got all ‘rhubarb rhubarb rhubarbarry’ and came en masse to Barbarossa. They found the first mate of the old Spanish captain.  The first mate convinced Barbarossa to keep him around due to his sailing experience.

This won’t come back to haunt Barbarossa.  Such kindnesses never comes back to haunt the heroes.

We learnt Barbarossa had some dealing with the King of France and suddenly…  There was some debate but Barbarossa felt the French would give him some privateering papers to legitimize his actions against the Spanish.

Suddenly, there’s no indication where they are.

Anyway, he began selling the prisoners as slaves but it was all a trick, you see. He got pretend outraged by the price and demanded to see the governor.  Barbarossa was escorted to the mansion and we saw by the portraits hanging in the waiting room that the governor has some very ugly women in his family.  If we aren’t sure of this, the whimsical music conveyed the fact  these women are so ugly.  Oh, what a pitiful man this governor must be if all the women in his life are stricken with such ugliness.  Nevermind that these women are some of the most accomplished scholars and artists in the known world…. oh no, heaven forbid a woman be ugly.

And if this wasn’t enough, Barbarossa made sure to add a moustache to the Governor’s wife’s portrait.  Because, you know, she wasn’t ugly…. Oh but alas, who was this stunning woman Barbarossa has spotted from the window as his colleague continued to deface the portrait?  Well, a man like Barbarossa wouldn’t let a little thing like etiquette stop him from meeting her so he acted as though he had full run of the mansion, which apparently he did, and burst into her room and introduced himself.

When guards came into the room and escorted him away, Barbarossa was shocked! Shocked I told you, that she wasn’t swooning over him.  The next scene… the beautiful woman sat on a chair, looking at the defaced portrait.  The woman, living in the Governor’s mansion, dressed in finery and being waited on by a handmaid was… gasp… the Governor’s daughter!  In her father’s absence she governed Tortuga.

She was very curious about why a Spanish ship lacked a Spanish crew and sought answers from Barbarossa who masqueraded as the old Spanish captain.  She didn’t question his ethnicity, oddly enough.  The crew of the ship, who pretended to be slaves, suddenly were carted off as slaves.  Luckily the wiley Barbarossa planned for this and a quick whistle sent the plan into action and Tortuga was captured by Barbarossa.

A brief chat with the Countess after the island was captured set up the rest of the movie. Her fiancee, a Captain (grandson of some muckity muck) Salcedo, would surely hunt down Barbarossa for holding her hostage and demanding a ransom of 100,000 gold pieces.  Once this bit of exposition was uttered, she’s carried off and the next character was carried forward, literally.  A kid named Datu who was a  spokesperson for the liberated prisoners of the island.  A philosophical discussion ensued over whether strength was in being quick and nimble or as Barbarossa brilliantly puts it “our strength lies in being strong enough to hold our ground.”  Strength comes from being Strong. I want to create a bunch of propaganda posters that are tautologies like that. “Healthy people do healthy things!”  Luckily the boy knew where Barbarossa can find more ships to augment his strenght.  I would have guessed ‘the ocean’ but the boy had more specifics so he got the job and I didn’t.

Suddenly, the appearance of an island and a title indicated we are know going to see Havana ~ Residence of the Governor-General.  My disappoint at the lack of ellipsis overwhelmed me for a moment.  The Governor-General was a doddering old man.  His daughter, the mother of Captain Salcedo, helped him to his chair while Salcedo, Countess Alida’s fiancee, demanded to lead an assault against Barbarossa while Captain Goiti argued that ‘hey man, like, you know this Barbarossa fella is bad news. Man. Just pay the ransom, you know. She probably kidnapped herself, anyway.”   Salcedo, showing what a cretin he was, then attacked Captain Goiti for being a commoner who came up in ranks through education while he came from the courts of the King and sees the world in a different way.  A classic 1% vs 99% argument if there ever was one.

The Governor-General who gaveno sign he heard a word of the argument bellowed, “I’m dying!” and sent Salcedo to take the fleet to Tortuga and then admonished Captain Goiti for challenging his authority.

Barbarossa prepared his ship.  Countess Alida was given the first mate’s cabin and when Barbarossa knocked she acted all haughty and stuff.  I am still struggling over the realization that this is Donna Reed as a raven haired saucy bit of yummy… wait, sorry, I didn’t mean to objectify her like that.  She’sfifteenth person to comment on his red beard, just in case we don’t realize what the name Barbarossa meant.  Well, the Countess wasn’t too happy with her tiny room, so Barbarossa took her to the ‘guest room’ which was the hold of the ship.  He told her when it was filled with slaves, they didn’t appreciate the roominess.  He won’t take her back to the other quarters until she learned some manners.   She refused to express manners in any fashion.

Then in a scene cut right from some BDSM movie, he struggled with her to put on a pair of shackles. She flailed about ineffectively,  slapping him a few times and he pulled her close and kissed her.  Because you know, that’s flirting.  “No, No, No I won’t wear the shackles! Yes, Yes, Yes, kiss me against my consent!”  Nothing tamed a passionate woman like a stolen kiss.

The shackles came out again and Barbarossa repeated himself regarding how she can return to the nice cabin.  “Remember, on your knees and with feeling.”  Oh my.  What kind of movie was this again?

Once Barbarossa emerged from the cargo hold the crew winches aboard a plump Spanish man they captured on a raid. The man won’t talk, so the crew discussed ways of getting him to speak.  A lit torch was brought over and placed under the plump man’s rump.  He quickly teold them he was Mayor of Santa Maria, appointed by the Governor-General.  More fire torture occurred before we saw the Mayor was in the hold in shackles with the Countess.

Do you see what’s happening?  The hold was once filled with prisoners soon to be slaves and now it was being filled with nobles and people of appointed and heriditary power. The Countess with her creamy skin, dark hair, hint of cleavage once again explained how she will never submit to that arrogant man Barbarossa.  Then the mayor explained how he feared for his city and wished he could get free to warn them.  The Countess then stole his idea, “Or if I could get free!”  With little hesitation she called for Barbarossa and knelt in front of him, putting on her sincerest face, hands pressed together in prayer fashion before her, “Please, Barbarossa, may I return?”

Talk about feminine wiles. “I have been a silly little dolt, haven’t I?” Barbarossa’s moment of skepticism was swept away with a non-stolen kiss.  “I think I could learn to like a man who is forceful.”

Barbarossa responded to her statement about liking forceful men by asking her to be his guest at a victory banquet after they take Santa Maria.  I wonder who cater’s pirate victory banquets.  I also think it is quite wonderful that pirates ask women they kidnapped out on dates.  #romance

And now… the musical number.  Drums and dancing… frivolity.  I guess Santa Maria fell quickly.  I’m so glad we didn’t’ have to witness any of that action….

There was a woman having some sort of fit, a seizure… wait, I’m sorry, she’s dancing.

Meanwhile the countess and Barbarossa dined on chicken and then he asked the Countess’s permission to dance with the poor stricken woman.  So polite. The countess took his distraction as opportunity to flee.  We then learned that maybe Barbarossa was in love with her just as she was brought back by his men.  He fretted over her hands, wounded by his men.  He chastened her for risking her life in the jungle, even if it was to flee his company.

She continued to threaten and spew verbal venum at him, telling him how she couldn’t stand what he represented.

“Perhaps you can tell me what I do stand for?”
“You’re a pirate. “
“A man is many things. To the Sultan of Morocco I’m an outcast. To the French, an ally. To you a pirate. To them, a savior.”

The conflict with Captain Salcedo loomed.  Barbarossa planned to flee but the Countess goaded him into a fight.  Barbarossa then told her he was going to demand less ransom for her, a lot less and suggested to her Salcedo won’t pay it.  “Yes he will.” “No, he won’t.” “He loves me!” “He cares more about blah de blah gold, lack of honor, etc.”  If you can’t tell, I’m paraphrasing.

Goiti and Salcedo once again fought at the bed of the Governor-General after Barbarossa disguised as a hapless stooped messenger delivered the revised ransom demand.  Goiti told Salcedo that the lower ransom was quite a deal and no reason to risk the Spanish fleet in a fool’s errand.  Salcedo sissy slapped Goiti.  Goiti responded by pulling out his blade but the two men are stopped from quarreling and Salcedo accepted the new demands.

Barbarossa then led Salcedo to a place where the exchange was to take place, all the while feeling out his feelings for the countess, talking about Barbarossa’s own emotional and physical attraction of the lovely woman.  Salcedo won’t hear of it and just wants this dirty business to be done.  They arrived where the exchange was to take place and while Salcedo carried the gold with him, when the Countess arrives, he won’t relinquish it.  The Countess begs Salcedo to pay the ransom after the messenger (Barbarossa) remembers Barbarossa saying Salcedo wouldn’t think the Countess was worth the money.  The messenger pokes at the Countess even more saying that even if Salcedo would pay just one piece of gold, Barbarossa would consider he got the best part of the bargain.

Salcedo refuses to pay anything.  As Salcedo walks away, the messenger stands up straighter, removes his eye patch and fake beard covering his real beard, revealing himself as Barbarossa.  The music tells us this is a dramatic turn of events.  I swear to god the countess rolls her eyes.  Salcedo pulls his sword and flings his hat from his brow as Barbarossa fumbles with the tie on his burlap suit jacket.  Why can’t he fight in burlap?

Of course when he threw the burlap coat at Salcedo, Salcedo acted as though he were hit with a load of bricks.  That explained it.  The burlap coat weighed eighty pounds. Very hard to fight effectively wearing an eighty pound burlap coat.

A swordfight ensued but Salcedo is disarmed rather quickly. Barbarossa’s annoyance at this was clear and he picked up Salcedo’s sword, “Here, try mine.”  Barbarossa gave his sword to Salcedo and the fight continued  Barbarossa tripped over a log, bringing into question the wisdom of giving Salcedo a second chance.  There’s honor in battle and then there’s plain stupidity.  When you win, you know… that’s when you quit.

While the men play with their weapons Countess wrote something in the sand with her slippered foot.  WINDWARD BAY.  She then pulled out a tiny handkerchief and dropped it over the words, barely covering them.

Once again, Salcedo was disarmed and was tied to a tree. Barbarossa told him he lost his gold and the countess, though the Countess doesn’t seem to thrilled by this turn of events.  What woman doesn’t want to be won in a swordfight? Every little girl grows up imagining that day when her kidnapper challenges her fiance in armed conflict so she can be with the man who has rightfully won her, right?

The Spanish soliders found the Countess’s message and another encounter was planned.

Barbarossa’s men weren’t too happy the Countess returned with him, but hey, he also brought gold so their disgruntlement was short lived.  Gold heals all unhappiness with spoiled royal daughters. That’s a rule.

Two Spanish galleons offered a ripe target for Barbarossa and in a less than exciting exchange of cannon and musket fire, Barbarossa seized both ships. It literally almost took more time for the anchor to drop in the following scene than it took for Barbarossa to capture the ships.

So while Barbarossa and all the burly men under his command along with the Countess sailed off from Windward Bay where the women and children that have mysteriously joined up with Barbarossa remained behind, the Spanish soldiers don’t waste time in hunting them down. Oops, forgetting to set defenses is the number one reason for villages getting slaughtered.

Barbarossa experienced his Luke Skywalker moment.  He waged full scale war on the Spanish to revenge the senseless killing.  Meanwhile the Governor-General diesd a new guy takes over and Captain Goiti was promoted to general.  Barbarossa’s war against the Spanish went well… yet he still kept Windward Bay as his safe haven.  Psst! Once the enemy found your base, slaughtered your people, you should move your base. #justsaying.

So a mass wedding occured and the Countess was bothered. She founds it disgraceful, but we don’t learn why.  I can only assume that she was one of those people who thiought no one should be married until everyone can be married.  A shockingly refreshing pro gay marriage stance for such an old movie.

Barbarossa invited the Countess to dinner once again, but it this time it was more of a command, more in tune with what we would consider proper pirate behavior. The Countess responded to the crass invitation by inviting a bunch of people into her tent, which for some reason pisses Barbarossa off. She then contended they are free men and challenged Barbarossa… “ Or are they only free to do your bidding?”

Barbarossa fled the Countesses company after delivering a beating to the first mate of the very first ship he captured in the movie.  Remember him?  The guy who obviously would never turn traitor to Barbarossa.  Barbarossa sought solace with his friend Peg Leg.

“She hates me.”
“I like a good hater, they love unreasonably.”

Barbarossa’s man Peg Leg convinced him to return Salcedo’s gold so the Countess no longer feels she’s chattle.  The traitor takes this opportunity to spirit the Countess away to Havana if she would help clear his name from charges of piracy back in the Court of the King of Spain.

The Countess escaped. The traitor killed Peg Leg and laid blame at the Countess’s feet. Barabarossa plotted to attack Havana.  Once the ships were offshore the traitor jumped ship and reported the attack to Salcedo.  The Countess was shocked to discover Peg Leg was killed and that Barbarossa thought she did it.  She also discovered Barbarossa was sending back the gold. salcedo killed the traitor and slapped the Countess for saying she hoped Barbarossa would kill him.  I’m not one for slapping women, but c’mon… when your fiancee tells you she wants another man to kill you, I think you get some leeway in this category, especially if you are already established as a villain.

Salcedo visited with General Goiti and goaded him into a game of oneupmanship that ends with Goiti keeping just 200 hundred men to defend Havana and giving Salcedo 1500 to hunt Barbarossa. The once pragmatic Goiti seemed to have turned venal and dumb. So much for hopes of nuance from the Spanish side of this conflict.

When Barbarossa attacked Havanna everyone can hear the cannon fire of the assault. So the Countess leapt from the carriage taking her away to run to the battle.  She’s quickly captured by Barbarosa’s forces and comes face to face with the red bearded pirate. She told Barbarosa  Salcedo took a fleet to attack his ships.  “Oh, he can’t do that, he doesn’t know where my ships are.” “Are they in North Bay, because if they are in North Bay, he knows where they are.” “D’oh!”

Barbarosa force marched his men across the land back to North Bay where a bunch of ships are anchored.

“See, no Spanish threat,” Barbarosa says to the Countess.

The young boy Datu then shouts, “Barbarosa, Look!”  We see a similar set of ships as before.

“The Spanish fleet!”

A quick battle ensued, Barbarosa’s ships are sunk and the Spanish crews disembarked from the ships to hunt down Barbarosa.

A quick aside on the tactics to use against the Spanish. The Spanish can’t see their enemies when those enemies hide behind the scrubbiest of shrubs.  If Spain ever becomes a world power again and becomes a threat, we must remember this little trick.

As Barbarosa’s crew cowered, I mean hid bravely behind shrubs and rocks, Salcedo’s men scouted the area.  They soon discovered where Barbarosa’s men were and fell back to form ranks.  Meanwhile, another patrol appeared and they were given an order to cross a glade quietly and in single file.  Barbarossa developed an elaborate trap.  If by trap you can infer hiding behind a different bush and then clubbing the soldiers over the head one by one as they came through the brush a trap.  An assembly line of military incompetence Henry Ford would have been proud of.

The soldier’s uniforms were put to good use to convince the Spanish guarding the longboats to go elsewhere.  Odd they didn’t question the lack of any ethnic Spaniards like the Countess did when the crew was first met.  Well, Donna Reed did have that special ability about her to discern who was a Spaniard and who wasn’t. Just ask Ricky Ricardo about that one night at the Bongo Room if you get my drift. They quickly stripped out of the Spanish military uniforms because you know, why bother to continue the ruse and rowed the boats out to the weakly defended Spanish ships.  Barbarossa’s crew swarmed up the sides of the ships with the help of conveniently placed ropes.  My high school Goth band was called Conveniently Placed Ropes. That seemed relevant until I actually wrote it down. Now I feel nothing but shame.

The Spanish fleet at North Bay was seized by Barbarossa and turned itsguns on Salcedo’s men on the shore.  Salcedo was arrested for treason but some random guy who had been with him.

Meanwhile, Barbarossa and the Countess stood on the deck of the ship making fun of Salcedo while Datu comes up and asked where they should go now.  “Tortuga!” Barbarossa said because he lacked imagination.  The Countess told him no.  Datu then suggested America, the land of the free.  And so Barbarossa and his band of cut-throats, thieves, murderers, bankers, and other ne’er-do-wells sailed off to America.