Morgan il pirata (1960)


(director/writer: Andre DeToth/Primo Zeglio; screenwriters: Filippo Sanjust; cinematographer: Tonino Delli Colli; editor: Maurizio Lucidi; music: Franco Mannino; cast: Steve Reeves (Henry Morgan), Valerie Lagrange (Dona Inez), Ivo Garrani (Governor Don Jose Guzman), Lydia Alfonsi (Dona Maria), Giulio Bosetti (Sir Thomas Modyford), Angelo Zanolli (David), Giorgio Ardisson (Walter), Dino Malacrida (Duke), Concepcion (Chelo Alonso); Runtime: 93; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Joseph E. Levine; MGM; 1960-Italy-dubbed in English)
“Dull but lush Technicolor action spectacular that’s based on the true story of 17th-century pirate Henry Morgan.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Andre DeToth (“Ramrod”/”Dark Waters”/”Pitfall”) and Primo Zeglio codirect this dull but lush Technicolor action spectacular that’s based on the true story of 17th-century pirate Henry Morgan, an English nobleman whose Royalist father was executed by Cromwell. Thanks to the talented DeToth this stiff story is made lively and has a much welcome tongue-in-cheek humor. The film was shot in Italy, and is written by Filippo Sanjust, DeToth and Zeglio. Muscleman Steve Reeves, reinvented his struggling career by appearing in the 1950s in numerous low brow adventure films in Italy such as his most popular Hercules. In arguably his best film role ever, the former Mr. Universe of 1950 trades in his sandals and toga for pirate garb, as he portrays the late 17th century freeborn Englishman, Henry Morgan, enslaved by the Spaniards in Panama and sold to Doña Inez (Valerie Lagrange). She’s the daughter of the governor (Ivo Garrani) of Panama. Caught by her father romancing his slave-owner daughter, Morgan’s sentenced to hard labor aboard a Spanish galleon. There Morgan leads his fellow slaves in mutiny, takes over the ship, and becomes a feared pirate. King Charles II of England makes a pact with Morgan to attack Spanish vessels but leave English vessels untouched, in exchange for English ships and men. When Morgan captures Doña Inez on a ship heading for Spain, he returns her to Panama. Doña Inez returns the favor by warning her father that Morgan plans to attack Panama. But the crafty Morgan averts a Spanish trap and leads his men overland and attacks the city from the rear. The attack succeeds and Morgan and Doña Inez get their romance on.

The Welshman Morgan built the largest private war-fleet in history, attacking the Cuban and American coasts in 1670 . His most noteworthy achievement was the daring capture of Panama in 1671. He was eventually caught and sent to England to be tried on piracy charges, but was instead proclaimed a hero and knighted. He spent his final years as the acting governor of Jamaica.

Reeves gives a serviceable performance, and gets a chance to flex his muscles when he removes his blouse (perhaps the highlight of the film). Egomaniacal sleaze producer of crappola adventure films, Joseph E. Levine, comes up with another box-office smash.