Saturday, 27 July 2013

Film Review: The Pirate Movie

A few weeks back, whilst strolling around Oxfam, Mr Click picked up a film, laughed and said 'The Pirate Movie' before putting it back on the shelf. This sparked the cogs in the back of my brain and I suddenly found myself getting excited. I remembered that title from somewhere. He dug it out again and confirmed that yes, it was the film I thought it was. He parted with £1.99 and our afternoon's viewing was sorted.

Probably the best description I've ever seen of this movie is on TV Tropes which describes it as The Pirates of Penzance meets Grease meets Airplane! I don't think I could sum it up better myself. But I'll try.

It's the story of Mabel, who is a bit of a nerd, who attends a pirate festival with a bunch of friends and meets Frederic who plays a pirate in the show. He invites her and her friends to an island after the show, but they leave without Mabel who follows along by herself in a little boat. She sails into a storm and gets washed up on the island in Pirates of Penzance.

From there the story basically follows the story of the Gilbert and Sullivan comic opera, complete with songs. Mabel becomes an extrovert who must try to convince her father to let her marry Frederic (even though she is the youngest daughter and so by rights should be married last). There's the Major General who wants his treasure back, and the Pirate King who originally stole it. It's perfectly zany and of course has a happy ending, which coincidentally is the name of the final song in the film.

The film was made in 1982 and I remember watching it when I was about four or five and loving it. At the time the innuendo went completely over my head and it was just a funny film about pirates with lots of singing in it. Watching it now as an adult I can't help but think I know why my parents enjoyed watching it with me.

I suspect Kirsty McNichol may have had something to do with my dad's watching it with me. I kind of think she looks a little like Sally Fields. She does a really good job of playing both the shy Mabel and the fiesty outgoing version. Both she and Christopher Atkins did their own singing in the film, even releasing a single of one of the songs in the film. Unfortunately it was a bit of a flop and seemed to be a bit of a career-killer for many of the actors involved in it.

All the same it's a wonderfully cheesy film that's totally aware of itself, Mabel regularly turns and talks directly to the audience. It kind of reminds me of the Carry On films with the sort of innocent innuendo that it employs. It's a film that I probably wouldn't have a problem with showing to my own kids, just as I watched it when I was little.

It's also a good introduction to the music of Gilbert and Sullivan. I think that they're performed in just the right way because The Pirates of Penzance is meant to be a comic opera, it's supposed to be zany and silly in places. Though I can't help but wonder what Gilbert and Sullivan would've made of it had they been around to see it today!

I could quite easily post all of the songs from it because they are all good fun, but I'll restrain myself and just share my top three. The first of which is the classic, 'I Am A Pirate King' performed by Ted Hamilton, complete with jewelled (and squeaking) codpiece:

My other favourite, which is also my favourite from the actual opera, is the Major General's Song. I love the Tom Lehrer, 'The Elements Song', parody but I think that the film version of this song is probably one of my other favourite versions. Anyone who can pull off one of these patter songs has my greatest respect because I'd probably pass out if I tried it:

And finally is the song that's guaranteed to become an earworm once you've listened to it. It's very eighties and at the same time I think it wouldn't sound out of place in the hands of a band like Steps. Plus the words are great, go on, listen:

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