صقر البحر, which actually does mean “hawk of the sea”), Barbary pirate and scourge of the Spanish.
In the first act, Oliver’s half-brother Lionel (Lloyd Hughes) frames Oliver for murder, has him kidnapped, and steals his fiancée, a noblewoman by the name of Rosamund Godolphin. Oliver soon finds himself exiled and enslaved aboard a brutal Spanish galleon. He eventually escapes, abjures Christianity for Islam, and dedicates his life to piracy.
The Sea Hawk treats Muslims and Moors almost the same as the British Christians. In fact, it portrays Moors more positively than the Spanish. The film depicts both Christians and Muslims as slavers, but because Oliver found himself enslaved by other Christians, he appears to see Islam as the marginally better choice (Islam prohibits enslaving freeborn Muslims). The film and the book both came out during the period James Loewen calls the “nadir of race relations,” which makes its attitude toward slavery all the creepier.
|But the film never explains how Oliver came to share a wardrobe with Genghis Khan.|
Oliver and Companions
Oliver makes for a decidedly strange and hypocritical antihero. He spends six months as a slave, yet he later purchases and makes use of slaves himself. He eventually even purchases Rosamund and Lionel as slaves!
|Oliver just spent six months as a galley slave. Look into those cold, hard eyes and watch him learn absolutely nothing.|
|“Rosamund, my love, I know you just saw me stab your father figure, but I can explain that right now we should totally have sex.”|
|Nothing against Wil Wheaton, but Lloyd Hughes also kind of looks like Wil Wheaton.|
|Fortunately for the music world, Asad wouldn’t live long enough to sue ZZ Top.|
|Sometimes, a bandana makes a man look like a pirate.|
Other times, a bandana makes a man look like the quirky housekeeper in a sitcom.
|You can’t tell from the picture, but he looks like a total jackass in context.|
|Look at that smug Spanish boat with its stupid sails and its stupid spars and its stupid forecastle.|
For a silent, the film has novel cinematography. In five years, Frank Lloyd would earn the Academy Award for Best Director for The Divine Lady. Nevertheless, in 1924, his command of the language of film had yet to fully mature. Lloyd weaves scenes together in a way that feels confusing when he can’t accompany them with changes in sound or color. He weaves together two romantic scenes early on in a disorienting manner, with abrupt jump cuts zigzagging back and forth. Battle scenes become confusing as he jumps from wide shots to two-shots to two-shots from a different angle without regard to continuity.
Still, though, Lloyd sells the most climactic parts. The fight scenes work on the silent film tradition of throwing a bunch of extras into the frame and having them all duke it out with each other. These scenes don’t exactly sparkle by today’s standards, but they work well in the service of the film.
Lloyd even pulls a Méliès and uses hand-painted film in one shot.
|Looks pretty cool for 1924, huh?|
At least Lloyd also uses some wonderful establishing shots. Some of these shots would later wind up in the loose 1940 remake starring Errol Flynn. The pretty exteriors don’t entirely save the dragging narrative, but they mitigate the boredom.
|I love the power of film to enable me to experience Cornwall without the cold.|