Directors: Antonio Peláez, Bert I. Gordon

Sony here continues MGM’s Midnite Movies series with this pirate-themed double feature aimed at juvenile audiences. The first feature, CRYSTALSTONE is a mostly Spanish-produced affair from the late 1980s, while THE BOY AND THE PIRATES is an early 1960s kiddie matinee effort from one of our favorite drive-in filmmakers, Bert I. Gordon (“Mr. B.I.G.”).

In CRYSTALSTONE, nine-year-old Pablo (Kamlesh Gupta) and his younger sister Maria (Laura Jane Goodwin) are dealing with the recent loss of their mother and a father who deserted them years earlier to set out to sea. Their mean caretaker aunt wants to separate the two, but when they catch wind of that plan, they run away. Meeting up with a mysterious old man (Sydney Bromley, familiar to Hammer fans from NIGHT CREATURES, FRANKENSTEIN AND THE MONSTER FROM HELL and many others, in his final film) on a boxcar, he tells them the legendary story of the Crystalstone, a precious treasure that was stolen from Indians centuries earlier. When the children awaken, they are left a cross which turns out to be the key to finding the treasure. A visit to a village has them witnessing the murder of an antiques dealer by a hook-handed pirate (Edward Kelsey) who is continuously chasing after them. A kind but drunken Captain (Frank Grimes) is accused of the murder, but the kids later come to spring him out of jail, knowing of his innocence. The Captain befriends Pablo and Maria, and together they search for the Crystalstone and ultimately find happiness.

Shot entirely in Spain using mainly British and Spanish actors, CRYSTALSTONE seemed to have only received a limited (if any) theatrical release in the U.S., and was then aired mostly on cable TV, so it’s remained fairly obscure throughout the years, even as far as Midnite Movies go. With a very European style and approach, it can surely be termed as a "family" film (with some minor violence, an eerie bit in a graveyard and light slapstick), and although I don’t think it will win over legions of new fans, it’s got a decent storyline (not having much to do with pirates, except for the hook-handed heavy), it’s beautifully photographed and proficiently acted by an international cast. Fans of Spanish horror films will be surprised to find Ricardo Palacios (the Mexican bandit in BLOOD OF FU MANCHU) as a rotund fruit vendor and Jess Franco regular Luis Barboo arm wrestling a masculine barmaid. New Zealand-born comic actor Terence Baylor (Leggy Mountbatten in THE RUTLES: ALL YOU NEED IS CASH) is humorous as policeman/jailor.

MGM/Sony presents CRYSTALSTONE on DVD in a 1.85:1 widescreen anamorphic High Definition transfer. The framing looks correct, and the picture appears sharp and nicely defined. Colors are stable, with a natural level of saturation and the elements to which the film was transferred from don’t display and noticeable blemishes or gain. The English mono audio track comes through full-bodied enough, with dialogue sounding quite clear. Optional English subtitles are included.

Originally released by United Artists in 1960, THE BOY AND THE PIRATES tells of a kid who is far more interested in playing pirate than keeping up his grades or mowing the lawn. During his daily beachside stroll, young Jimmy Warren (Charles Herbert, from the original THE FLY) finds a bottle with a hyper genie (Joseph Turkel) in it. The genie comes out to grant Jimmy’s wish of transporting him back to the days of swashbucklers, but in exchange, he has to return the bottle where he found it in three days or else take the genie’s place. This is no easy task, as Jimmy finds himself on the ages-old vessel of Blackbeard (Murvyn Vye), but when he’s forced to swab the deck and clean vegetables, he starts to miss his suburban life and creates ascheme to force the pirate ship to sail back to his homeland.

THE BOY AND THE PIRATES is an enjoyable fairytale for kids and adults alike, and it's pretty much in the spirit of the Midnite Movies line. It doesn’t get preachy, but there is an underlying sense of irony between Jimmy’s interaction with the rough sea bandits and the home he left behind. Although the film is ultimately aimed at adolescents, the pirates are still somewhat rugged and nasty, with Blackbeard shooting one of his men in cold blood (we see a spurt of the red stuff), and Jimmy being threatened by intimating pirate Morgan (a good but supporting character turn by Timothy Carey) with a hot poker. Good comic moments have Jimmy squirting a swordsmen with a water pistol, astounding the pirates with a book of matches, and accidentally mixing bubblegum into their. The special effects (mostly of the pint-sized genie) are pretty convincing, and the director’s daughter Susan Gordon appears in two roles.

THE BOY AND THE PIRATES is presented on DVD in non-anamorphic 1.66:1 transfer. The transfer itself looks very nice. The image is sharp and nicely detailed, with well saturated colors that reproduce the original Eastman stock of theatrical prints to true form. There are no significantly noticeable scratches or blemishes, but occasionally the picture seems to slightly drift in and out of focus. The mono audio track is very audible, with no apparent background noise or distortion. Optional subtitles are included in English, Japanese, Portuguese and Spanish.

Spread across two separate discs, these new Midnite Movies releases are the first (and perhaps the last, as MGM is switching it distribution over to Fox) to be manufactured by Sony. The MM logo on the front cover has been altered, and the back cover format has also changed (no poster art, but rather a small still from each film) and the main menus are very simple, with no illustrations or chapter menus. (George R. Reis)