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Now for the first time, comes the true story of pirate Edward Teach, the man who terrorized the seas. - Plot Summary from the back cover of Blackbeard

As the end credits began to roll on this mini-series, I leaned in closely and scanned every line for a historical advisor or consultant. I couldn't find one, but I did count seven accountants and four craft service attendants, a job limited to snacks and refreshments (catered meals not included.) It's absolutely wonderful that the production ensured its financial records were in perfect order and that not a soul working on the mini-series grew hungry during shooting, but it's all in vain of the final product. A word of advice to all writers, directors, and producers: When you boast that your mini-series is the " true story of pirate Edward Teach", you might want to hire someone with background in seventeenth century history to look over your script before you shoot it. I imagine had the production team done this, the first thing the historian would've told them (after near wetting himself with laughter) was that Blackbeard didn't have a heavy Scottish accent.

Blackbeard
At the height of his career as the most notorious pirate ever to scour the seas, Blackbeard was having a grand old time terrorizing the small port town of New Providence, North Carolina. The gig only got better when the downright sleazy Governor Charles Eden struck an under the table deal with the scurvy captain, allowing him sanctuary and naval immunity while he robs the coast blind, so long as the governor gets his share. When Eden's not cutting deals with pirates, he's plotting to kill his adopted daughter, Charlotte, to benefit from her gargantuan inheritance before she does. Meanwhile, Charlotte falls in love with a visiting Naval officer, Lt. Robert Maynard, a man who's been sent to New Providence to stop Blackbeard and his crew at all costs.

Things take a turn for the shocking when Maynard is caught off-guard by Blackbeard's crew. They drug him and take him onboard their ship as they set sail for the lost treasure of Captain Kidd. In no position to arrest Blackbeard (with no weapons or back up), Maynard is forced into piracy where he spends more time with his arch-rival than he ever wanted. By the half-way point of the mini-series, things seem pretty dismal. How is Maynard going to stop Blackbeard and more importantly (to me anyway), who is going to save the lovely Charlotte from the evil Governor?

I must admit, McFadyen plays a great pirate, despite his accent. He portrays his scurvy villain cruel and unrelenting, but Blackbeard he is not. The legend of Blackbeard (which overshadows fact in terms of what we know about him) didn't paint the guy as short, dumb and violent. Traditional lore told us he was a massive man with a great intelligence. This production did him justice by making him a fairly unlikable fellow, but it ends there. It's a shame too, because Blackbeard has the potential as a character to become the greatest screen pirate of all time, even better than that Jack Sparrow chap currently ransacking the box office. Overall, the production grossly mishandled its title character and could've been much better had it lost all historical connections and operated as a fictional pirate story.

Blackbeard
The special effects department on this mini-series really should attend some sort of basic training for their trade. The squib work here for flintlock wounds is laughably bad, with one instance near the end giving a bullet (more of a ball, really) over half a second to travel four feet into Blackbeard. As it makes impact, another bang is heard just like the one that sounded half a second earlier as the flintlock discharged. Further evidence of the incompetent special effects crew can be seen in the screenshot below. Any guesses as to how they pulled off this clever trick? Surely they didn't just stick a block of wood under Blackbeard's shirt and attach a half-bladed sword... or did they? Judging by the Kool-Aid-ish look of the blood, I'm going to assume some of the craft service people doubled for the effects team.

For everything that drove me mad about Blackbeard, there was something to counter-balance it that I found enjoyable. Sure, they cast actress Jessica Chastain as Charlotte, someone who couldn't pull off a colonial accent to save her life, but they also cast the delightful Stacy Keach as a pirate and he's the most qualified actor appearing in the whole show. They also botched several special effects, but for such a low-budget production, the score is quite epic and something to be proud of. As I mentioned above, this would've been a much better mini-series had it not tried to focus on Blackbeard. Funny how the production claims to be telling the true story of Edward Teach since that's one that historians even today don't know. Maybe they should publish their findings in a book or historical journal and enlighten the rest of us.

My final complaint for Blackbeard is that it's far too long at one hundred and sixty-nine minutes. More than half an hour could've been trimmed to make this a made for television movie, one with better pacing and a tighter story than the present feature. With that final complaint, I'd like to make a final praise because this mini-series is truly a mixed-bag, bittersweet in all meanings of the word. The last thirty minutes of part one and nearly all of part two are fairly well-made entertainment. Richard Chamberlin is great sinister fun as the contrasting evil in the story, Governor Eden. The rest of the cast led by Mark Umbers as Maynard fit their roles perfectly.

There you have it, a mini-series that's as good as it is bad, if that makes any sense. If you're a fan of pirates or the performers involved and don't mind a gross historical inaccuracy; then you might enjoy this mini-series. Otherwise, steer clear.

Blackbeard
Video
Blackbeard surprisingly is presented in 1:85:1 anamorphic widescreen. I wasn't expecting much for image quality on this or any mini-series, yet Echo Bridge has delivered a fine product, visually. The image is always sharp and crisp with hardly any grain to be found. Black levels are fantastic causing night scenes and you-know-who's beard to come in clearly. Colors are also very vibrant whether it's blue skies over the ocean or the leafy greens of Vulture Island. No complaints in the video department, that's for sure.

Audio
Audio is slightly less impressive than video with a Dolby Digital 2.0 mix on the feature. Dialogue, music, and foley effects are almost always separated during the mini-series and all three come across clearly. I suppose two channels is all we really need to hear the fine atmospheric work done on Blackbeard, the waves crashing upon the side of Blackbeard's ship. Anything more would've been overkill, so this track will suffice.

Extras
Despite my complaints above, I wasn't holding much against the disc until I got around to viewing the supplements. A mini-series like this could've benefited from any number of supplemental features like commentary, deleted material, bloopers, and trailer just to name off a few. What we're given is four mini-featurettes (using the term 'mini' loosely) that collectively amount to seven minutes.

It's an awful lot of effort to bring videographers out to your location when you're shooting in Thailand to film your production efforts and interview your cast and crew. I can't imagine why Echo Bridge would only care to include these brief and ultimately dissatisfying segments on the disc. Each small piece feels like a sequence cut out of a bigger featurette. These four rank as a disappointment. It's probably worth mentioning that I found the disc's animated menus more charming than the mini-featurettes themselves.

Blackbeard
Overall
If pirates are your thing, then this mini-series can be quite enjoyable if entered with low expectations. If you go in expecting a film of the same entertainment caliber as Pirates of the Caribbean or even Muppet Treasure Island, you'll be sorely disappointed. If you go into the mini-series taking the claim about the true story seriously as promised on the back case, you'll also be disappointed. But if you've got three hours to kill, this ain't a bad way to kill them. Confusingly-bad supplements aside, this disc houses the mini-series nicely.


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