Friday, September 18, 2009

"Pirates of the White Sands" -- A Review for TLAPD

(Left-to-right: Justin Tade as "Knobby Pete," Miguel Martinez as
"Cap'n Moab," and Y'r Ob'd't S'v't as "Kentucky Jack.")

One obscure gem is Pirates of the White Sand, which debuted at the 2005 Duke City Shootout film festival. Written by the Seeger Brothers, the script won the festival's Federico Fellini award, earning the brothers a chance to bring the film to the festival, in which directors are given one week to film and edit a 14-minute movie.

The crew experienced some serious technical problems, such as a failure of communication between the film-editing computer and the film-industry expert provided by the film festival to assist the production that resulted in all edited footage being lost just hours before screening time. But after a seriously intense all-night editing session, an extremely rough cut was available for the final public gala, at which, despite the technical issues, it won the Audience Choice award.

The film itself is a rollicking adventure involving a crew of unruly pirates, colonial Spanish gold treasure, and nuclear weapons. The pirates, led by Captain Moab (Miguel Martinez), descend upon the remote roadside café run by the ever-efficient Ruthie (Deborah Chavez), in their "ship," the Crusader, a 1964 (drop-top) Lincoln Continental (the one with the suicide doors. W.). This is the same model used effectively in The Matrix as a trans-dimensional transport device; it serves a similar purpose in this film.

The pirates have been on a search for treasure, a vast trove of gold looted by the Spanish from the Aztec empire, hidden somewhere in what is now the White Sands Missile Range never to be found again. While the pirates are on the trail of the treasure, someone else is on the trail of the pirates, in helicopters and big black SUVs.

After many weeks "at sea," Moab's crew is eager to unwind at Ruthie's café, enjoying "grog" (beer served in a pitcher labeled GROG that Ruthie keeps on hand for the pirates) and, of course, green chile cheeseburgers. The action is frenetic, matched with a punk-rock adaptation of the sea chantey "Here's to the Grog" that underlies the action and also emphasizes the anachronisms that run throughout the film.

Martinez does excellent work as the pirate captain, bringing a wide range of emotions to the role, as the swaggering leader of a crew of brave men, and also the man who is thoroughly in love with Ruthie but knows he will never be able to have her, as his pirate life keeps him from being able to settle down. It is easy to see why he won the Best Actor award at the Shootout. As the film industry's presence in New Mexico increases, look to see Martinez in small but memorable parts in future blockbusters. His talent should take him far.

The directing is good; director P.L. Fuego keeps the pace brisk, although in one or two places the action seems to drag. In on scene, in particular, a sight gag involving a nuclear warhead doesn't quite work right. Mostly, however, the audience will be carried along nicely by the action.

The film is, unfortunately, not widely available. Fuego has been working on a director's cut that fixes the technical problems that marred the film-festival version and adds some material that had to be left out because of the Shootout's time restrictions. He might let you have a copy if you ask him nicely, or you might be able to find a friend of his who has a copy and copy that. Uh, yeah, pirated Pirates.

Disclaimer: I know these guys. Oh, all right … I'm related to them. Uh, yeah, they're my brothers. Still, it's a good film. If it sucked, I just wouldn't have written the review.
I have a copy (in English and Czech) if anybody will 1) gimme permission and 2) show me how, I'd put it up on YouTube for posterity.

And, yarrrr, young Jim! Don't ye be farrrgettin' to "Talk Like A Pirate" t'marrrrow! (Or at least, to talk like Robert Newton...)

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