If I wanted to see a real butch he-man like Lex Barker dressed in his satiny finest and wearing a powdered wig, I would go to that premium members only web site that’s discreetly billed to my credit card at $29.98 month!
But it wasn’t as if the transgendered appearance of one our great Tarzans was the only thing marring my enjoyment of what should have been an easy sell to someone as indiscriminate as me when it comes to Italian adventure films. There was the nasal and simpering voice used to dub Lex’s no doubt brawny real life voice, the fact that Lex fought sword fights while undercover with a blade that had his real name on it, and of course the pansified dance scene Lex and the audience were forced to endure during one of the movie’s numerous bouts of action anorexia.
Son of the Red Corsair at least attempted to mix in some action with all the talk of scheming to steal the long lost princess’ throne. Lex invaded a ship at the beginning of the film, engaged in some swordplay here and there and even swung on a rope during the climatic confrontation with the completely non-threatening old governor who, to his credit, was torturing Lex’s girlfriend. (At least these guys are making an effort!)
Sadly though, none of it had any real lasting impact on the viewer, mainly because the bad guys are a bland politically motivated wimpy lot, but also because the action scenes just don’t have that much zest to them. A couple of times I felt like I was watching dudes in customs fencing instead of nobles and soldiers battling for their lives at the point of a sword!
The story doesn’t manage to save the day either, being a combination of silly coincidence (the woman Lex encounters on the ship he invades just happens to have Lex’s long lost sister as her handmaiden?), uninteresting political intrigue (the long lost sister is the heir to the throne of something or other and governor wants it for himself), and extremely low level revenge seeking on Lex’s part (he seems more bemused by the fact he has to wear powdered wigs than anything else).
Lex plays a pirate out to avenge the deaths of his sister and father. He locates the man who betrayed his family 15 years ago and this man, in an effort to save himself, tells Lex that his sister is alive. Lex then follows up at the convent where she supposedly has been staying, but finds out she is gone and that other men were searching for her as well.
Lex continues to follow her trail and ends up at the palatial residence of the Marquise he encountered (and instantly fell in love with of course) on the ship he invaded at the beginning of the film. And not only is his sister there, but the Marquise’s brother is in love with her and they want to marry!
And not only that, but he’s the captain of the guard and ultimately has to try and hunt Lex down! (But in keeping with the film’s general ho-hum, yet moderately convoluted tone, nothing much comes of it except he gets shot and Lex is blamed for his death, even though Lex merely helped him fake his death!)
Despite how unsuccessful the film ultimately feels, it has all the trappings of the genre you would expect. In addition to the hoity-toity dance sequence with Lex in what any real modern man would call Renaissance Drag, there is also the more man-friendly gypsy dance that also serves to introduce the gypsy spy Lex relies on for information.
There’s periodic doses of ill-advised comic relief from some of Lex’s men (when Lex sends his black friend out on a nighttime mission, one of this other men remarks that it’s a good idea because no one will be able to see the black guy at night!). You even get a whipping scene where poor old Lex’s sister has to choose between marrying the grody old bad guy or watching her sexy friend, the Marquise, get whipped to death! (Thankfully for you kinky dudes out there, she takes her own sweet time deciding!)
The movie even ends in suitably lame fashion with the wedding of the sister and the captain of the guard where a few characters make wisecracks while Lex and the Marquise are just standing around silently watching like a couple of day rate extras!
Unremarkable in every way, those coming to Son of the Red Corsair for entertaining Lex Barker flavored Italian adventure before he moved on to his more famous roles in German films would be better served sampling something like Barker’s much more energetic and better costumed Robin Hood and the Pirates.
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