Monday, 2 January 2012

More 7TV Madness, Pirates this Time!

The Return of the Scarlet Buccaneer

The Return of the Scarlet Buccaneer was a 1979 swashbuckler Movie from Knight Pictures, produced mainly in response to the Movie “Battle for the Galaxy”.

Even though Battle for the Galaxy was set in a Universe Long Ago - and was to all intents and purposes a space opera, it never the less contained many heroic action sequences reminiscent of the old Hollywood swashbuckler movies of the 1930’s.

When Al “Romeo” Knight, and his partner Harry Salterman saw Battle for the Galaxy - they knew there was a way of cashing in (and keeping it cheap production wise) and their way of doing so was to produce a Pirate Movie.

Battle for the Galaxy drew its story heavily from Greek and Roman myths, and its epic story-telling style from Japanese Jidaigeki films (in particular by Akira Kurosawa's The Hidden Fortress) - Knight & Salterman saw no reason not to take  the same inspiration, after all it was easy - and cheap, as most of the influences were public domain.

The script (such as it was) was finished in late 1978, and production began in early 1979 - with a really REALLY small budget. They shot locally, to further keep costs down, and recycled a lot of the old props, ships, and costumes from the old Hammersmith Pirate Movies of the early 1970’s.

The cast was assembled quickly, a relative unknown actor Richard Marx was cast as Lucas Seahawk the young lead. 

Lucas  was the orphaned Son of a Buccaneer, he was taken in by his Uncle Owain and Aunt Beryl who  raised him to hate Pirates and Buccaneers.

When old Ken Bonnie (portrayed by the late great Alexander Cafrey) returns to Plymouth, and tells Lucas his father was the most famous of the King’s Buccaneers, an heroic figure who sailed the high seas in service of King George I - Lucas is horrified.

When it turns out the last thing his father did was steal secret plans to the King of Spain's most secret weapon, a huge War-Galleon known as the Dark Star. A ship so powerful and well armed it is capable of destroying entire towns and ports with its firepower - Lord Tarrant (played by the amazing Peter Wilton) and his aid, a huge Warrior clad entirely in black referred to only as the “Dark Warrior” (played by stuntman Dudi Prouse, and voiced by Earl James) is in league with King Philip V of Spain, and Plans to destroy British ports around England, finally targeting London - with the intention of sending Britain into uproar and economic collapse. 

This upheaval would Lord Tarrant free to assassinate the King, and place a “puppet” monarch on the throne.
Documents outlining this were in the safe keeping of Lady Lena of York (played surprisingly well by Al “Romeo” Knights Daughter, Christina Knight), who (whilst on a diplomatic mission to Spain) simply vanished - she is in actuality being kept in shackles on the Dark Star, awaiting her inevitable fate. 

Fortunately, Lady Lena had passed the plans onto her man-servants Mr Thorpe (Daniel Anthony) her Butler, a very prim and precise man with no appetite for adventure at all, and Mr Ratto (Kenneth George) a small but hardy footman - who though comical in appearance is much smarter than he appears to be.

After Ken Bonnie convinces young Master Seahawk he needs to take to the high seas to become a Buccaneer and serve his King (and by doing so finish his fathers last task) they leave for a dive known only as “Mo Smileys” a disreputable Tavern where they might hire a ship and a crew.

Ken Bonnie and Lucas Seahawk quickly find themselves engaged in conversation with Captain Jon Swallow (played to great comic effect by John Nathan Christopher), a ne'er-do-well Pirate Captain who needed funds desperately to get out of Plymouth in a hurry. The deal was quickly settled, money changed hands on the deal, and Captain Swallows first mate (a huge hairy Scotsman) named McNally (Robert Logan) leaves to buy provisions for the Ship.

Just after McNally Exits, Lord Tarrants men arrive in for form of a group of British Marines, resplendent in their red coats. 

A fight ensues, this is the first time we see Lucas Seahawk  fight with a blade - Ken Bonnie holds his own too (in spite of his age), and at the peak of the fight shouts to Lucas “here take this, your Fathers blade” which spurs Lucas Seahawk on to defeat several opponents at once. 

Even though Captain Swallows holds his own in the fight, his fighting style is planned for comic effect rather than drama or action - and balances the swordplay displayed by Lucas Seahawk and Ken Bonnie quite nicely.

They take flight from Mo Smileys and reach Swallows ship - the Wicked Wench, just as McNally is ready to weigh anchor. Seahawk is not impressed, calling the Wicked Wench an old crate as the set sail.
As they pull away from Port, the shots from the Marines Muskets clattering harmlessly off the hull of the ship.

The Wicked Wench finally catches up with the Dark Star, late at night. It is pitch black and the sea is calm, and they take a launch and pull quietly along side. Climbing up the hull of the Ship, Seahawk and Captain Swallow kill the two Guards on Watch - and begin their search for Lady Lena.

When they find her, she is barely alive - having been tortured by the Dark Warrior. Swallow has a start when he sees the Dark Warrior’s armoured form in the corner of the room - but his signature black leather armour and face-mask are empty. 

As they flee the Dark Star, the alarm is sounded - and they quickly return to the Wicked Wench and set sail. Cannons are fired, and musket shot rings out in the dark. They seem jubilant over their escape, only to find that Ken Bonnie is dead, his throat cut - as they sail away, they can just make out the form of a muscular man swimming away from the Wicked Wench towards the Dark Star. 

Lady Lena is reunited with Mr Thorpe and Mr Ratto who have the plans, and she seeks audience with King George. Lucas Seahawk is introduced as the son of the Kings friend the Scarlet Buccaneer - and so is charged by King George to take a fleet of Privateer Ships and destroy the Dark Star before it can begin its assault on the ports of England.

Swallow takes his reward for helping Lucas and Lena, and bolts - he has a price on his head put there by Desi Triure  (a Pirate for whom Captain Swallow has worked from time to time) for dumping a smuggled cargo when boarded by the East India Company, and he wants to pay Triure off before he is killed. 

Lucas and Lena take to the open seas again, this time in an English Ship. A great Sea battle ensues, between the Dark Star and the Privateer Fleet. Things take a turn for the worse, the Dark Star is still going strong - and most of the Privateer Ships are either sunk or sinking.

Then, through the smoke, the Wicked Wench appears - seemingly out of nowhere, and delivers the coup de grâce shot to the Dark Stars hull. Holing her, causing her to sink rapidly. The next shot we see is of Lord Tarrant, lying amongst the remains of his sinking ship - as the Dark Warrior swims away. 

Once back in England, Lucas Seahawk, Lady Lena, Captain Swallow and McNally receive their rewards from the King - the movie ends with a heroic flourish.

The Return of the Scarlet Buccaneer came about for two reasons, firstly how much "Star Wars - A New Hope" reminds me of a Pirate Movie plot (and I had watched it and the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie back to back) - and I KNEW if I did a 7TV-Style Pirate "homage" I would actually pull my finger out and start painting my fricking Pirates!

Of course, this also meant searching through my miniatures for Characters - which (excepting with McNally) just weren't there - so it meant conversion time. So far Ken Bonnie, Lucas Seahawk, Captain Swallow, and First Mate McNally are ready to paint, and I've started work converting Lord Tarrent, I've already got Marines - as for Spanish, the Freebooters Fate Imperial Navy look suspiciously like Spanish crew anyway.

The Dark Warrior is an issue, but I'm sure I'll get there.

Lady Lena, Mr Thorpe and Mr Ratto I can do without conversion.

 First - Ken Bonnie.

He's a Black Scorpion Pirate (the one with two Pistols) with a head-swap (a Crooked Dice Man from 3000 head) and a sculpted beard, lastly I gave him a Cutlass in his right hand.

 Next Up - Lucas Seahawk.

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