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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

ahoy, mateys! get your pirate fix with these DVD treasures

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End comes to DVD next week, completing the definitive pirate trilogy of our day. What’s left to fulfill your jones for pirates? There are lots of flicks to choose from:
Captain Blood (1935): This swashbuckling classic is not only a grand time at the movies, it’s also clearly a major influence on POTC. Errol Flynn is Peter Blood, unjustly accused of treason and sold in slavery, which he escapes and becomes — you guesed it — a pirate. [buy at Amazon] Also don’t miss The Sea Hawk (1940), in which Flynn portrays a 16th-century privateer — essentially a legal pirate — for Queen Elizabeth I in her war with Spain. [buy at Amazon]

The Princess Bride (1987): Of course. The Dread Pirate Westley is the best pirate ever … yes, even better than Captain Jack. Skip the new 20th-anniversary edition in favor of the 2001 special edition. [buy at Amazon]

Cutthroat Island (1995): There were more actual women pirates in history than the movies have ever shown us, and Geena Davis is one of them. Perhaps it’s not the greatest pirate movie ever made, but it’s a hoot, and it’s arguable that POTC wouldn’t exist without the trail it blazed. [buy at Amazon]

Muppet Treasure Island (1996): C’mon, it’s Muppets. Who doesn’t love the Muppets? Plus, it’s a musical (“On occasion there may be someone you have to execute / But when you’re a professional pirate / You don’t have to wear a suit”). [buy at Amazon]

Time Bandits (1981): They sail on the temporal sea, not the wet one, but they’re still pirates, those thieving dwarves. Written by Monty Python vets Michael Palin and Terry Gilliam, and directed by Gilliam, this is one the cleverest, funnest adventure movies ever made, and the only pirate movie, to my knowledge, that questions the nature of God. [buy at Amazon] For more Pythonesque goodness, there’s Yellowbeard (1983), starring, among many other very silly people, Eric Idle and John Cleese. [buy at Amazon]

Ice Pirates (1984): They’re no Han Solos, but they’re futuristic space pirates, and that’s good enough for me. [buy at Amazon]

The Pirates of Penzance (1983): Kevin Kline sings his way to notoriety as the Pirate King, Gilbert & Sullivan style. [buy at Amazon]

Horatio Hornblower (1998-2003): Okay, he’s not a pirate, but for adventure on the high seas, it’s worth spending some time with Horatio. Ioan Gruffudd stars as the fine, upstanding young officer who gets away with some unorthodox — almost pirate-y — things. Also starring Battlestar Galactica’s Jamie Bamber as Horatio’s pal Archie. [buy at Amazon]

For a comprehensive list of just about every pirate movie ever made, check out Rob Ossian’s Pirate Cove.

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  • Kathy A

    You don’t mention The Crimson Pirate??? Not only is it the source for the “walk across the bottom of the sea with an overturned rowboat for an air pocket” scene in the first PotC, but it has a very sexy Burt Lancaster parading about in skintight breeches and quite often shirtless, drawing on his circus gymnast background with his stunts. Wonderful, wonderful film.

  • MaryAnn

    I’m not familiar with that film.

  • mischief

    Castle in the Sky

  • Kathy A

    I do disagree with the PirateKing.com website you linked to (he only gives it 2 1/2 out of 5 stars, and I’d give it closer to 4 out of 5), but he does say some nice things about the film:

    “A good example of the classic…swashbuckler film genre…Lancaster gives what may be his most physical performance…Nick Cravat, Lancaster’s real-life circus buddy, matches the star leap for leap, somersault for somersault, as the sidekick…and a young Christopher Lee [I forgot he was in this movie!!] demonstrates the swordsmanship that would later make him a natural in Richard Lester’s The Three Musketeers…The broadly played action sequences wouldn’t be improved on for another three decades–by Speilberg’s Raiders of the Lost Ark. The big difference: Harrison Ford needed a stunt double, Lancaster didn’t.”

    As you can tell, I am definitely recommending that you rent this film, because it’s a real must see!!

  • MaryAnn

    Castle in the Sky

    What?

  • I think Mischief was suggesting another movie with pirates. It’s a film by Hayao Miyazaki which was released by Disney as “Castle in the Sky” as part of the Studio Ghibli distribution deal. Features two kids who join a band of air-pirates seeking the legendary floating city of Laputa.

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