Avast, ye scallywags! Happy International Talk Like A Pirate Day to ye all! The best day of the year for putting on your tricorns, eye-patches and peg legs, drinking rum and going in search of buried treasure. However, if you’re not a pirate then chances are you’re either stuck at work or doing something else that stops you running off to plunder in the Caribbean.
Don’t despair though, here at Set The Tape we’ve got you covered with some recommendations of things to watch to help you get on the piratical mood. Y’arrr!
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
By far the best of the franchise that will not die, the first Pirates of the Caribbean film is still fantastic. Directed by Gore Verbinski and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer the film was based on the beloved Walt Disney attraction of the same name which features at every one of the resort locations across the world. It was a tour de force for both Johnny Depp and Geoffrey Rush as both Jack Spa-, sorry Captain Jack Sparrow and his treacherous former first mate Hector Barbossa, who are able to overact to their heart’s content and for it not to fall flat, some of the dialogue between the pirates is almost Shakespearean in feel.
Joined by both Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom, it’s an epic adventure from start to finish with no lulls in the action, and the score that accompanies it, composed by Klaus Badelt and Hans Zimmer, will remain in your head for ages after watching. Despite previous attempts at pirate blockbusters (see below) Pirates of the Caribbean was an unexpected success, being nominated for and winning several awards, and it went on to spawn two back-to-back sequels and a further two more offerings. The first is simply the best though when it was all brand new, and rekindled the love affair that a lot of people still have with pirates today.
Muppet Treasure Island
The fifth film to feature the Muppets was a retelling of the classic Robert Louis Stevenson novel ‘Treasure Island’. It followed in the footsteps of its predecessor The Muppet Christmas Carol, by casting live-action actors in the major roles with the Muppet characters in supporting ones. Tim Curry, once again playing the charming villain to perfection, was cast as Long John Silver and Kevin Bishop, in his feature film debut, as Jim Hawkins. The pair join forces with Kermit the Frog, Fozzie Bear and Sam Eagle (as Captain Smollett, Squire Trelawney and Mr. Arrow respectively) as they go in search of Captain Flint’s hidden treasure on Skeleton Island. Given the novel, I wasn’t sure how they were going to include Miss Piggy in the action, but in an unexpected gender twist she was there as Benjamina Gunn, the long-lost love of Captain Smollett (who else?)
The musical numbers stand out, which you expect from a Muppet movie, with Hans Zimmer also providing the instrumental score, with my personal favourites being Cabin Fever when their ship is stuck in the doldrums and unable to move, and Sailing For Adventure which has my favourite line from the forgetful Fozzie: “Sailing for adventure on the big, blue wet thing!” Muppet Treasure Island is the perfect addition to the list for those of you with younger viewers along for the ride, and for anyone who is a Muppet fan.
Box office bomb Cutthroat Island, starring Geena Davis and Matthew Modine, and directed by Renny Harlin, is a controversial addition to the list for nearly putting a permanent nail in the coffin for pirate movies; until Pirates of the Caribbean came along eight years later. The film suffered from multiple rewrites, changes in cast and was critically panned for its script and stunts, despite having high production values, lost around $147 million, and spelt the end for Carolco Pictures until it was reopened years later.
However, despite all that, I still love it. It is a guilty pleasure movie for any pirate fan, and if you’re prepared to look past its glaring issues, it’s still a good adventure romp. Mostly. Maybe give this a watch after you’ve quaffed a lot of rum and can suspend your disbelief enough to believe that Geena Davis really did make that jump out of the window and land on that moving carriage.
Technically another flop, Yellowbeard is the Pirate brainchild of Graham Chapman and Peter Cook who were inspired to make it after conversations with Pink Floyd’s Keith Moon. Moon had wanted to star in the film but had to drop out due to his deteriorating health. Yellowbeard (Graham Chapman) has been incarcerated for tax evasion but breaks out in a bid to reclaim his buried treasure. However, his original map was burnt but a copy was tattooed on the head of a son he never knew he had… Makes you wonder if Cutthroat Island was inspired by these events, given the map in that was also tattooed on scalps.
What follows is a comedic romp with many notable faces in it, such as Spike Milligan, Cheech and Chong, Eric Idle, John Cleese, Madeline Kahn, James Mason and an uncredited appearance from David Bowie as The Shark, as lots of people try to get Yellowbeard’s treasure from him.
Despite frequent collaborators with Chapman, as part of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, both John Cleese and Eric Idle named it as one of the worst films of all time – but Idle said he had a lot of fun working on it and that comes through in the performances. It’s perhaps not in the same league as other comedy films from its time, but it’s worth including for a night of silly pirate fun.
Saving the best for last, no Pirate Day would be complete without the Starz drama Black Sails. There’s four seasons of this televised epic and – despite having Michael Bay’s name attached to it as an executive producer – is some of the most visceral and engaging television I have seen in a long time. I desperately wish it ran for longer than it had. The series serves as a prequel to Treasure Island and follows Captain James Flint (Toby Stephens) as he tries to take and hold onto the biggest treasure haul in recent times, the gold of the Spanish galleon, the Urca de Lima. It also charts the journey of a self confessed coward who does everything he can to safeguard his own life, to becoming the Pirate King known as Long John Silver (Luke Arnold).
The show blends both characters from the novel with imaginings of real life pirates such as Charles Vane (Zach McGowan), Calico Jack Rackham (Toby Schmitz) and Anne Bonny (Clara Paget), as they all navigate plans and double crosses all the while trying to keep the English at Bay, spearheaded by the notorious Governor Woodes-Rogers (Luke Roberts). It is also worth noting that the diversity within the characters, not just in race but also in gender and across the LGBTQ spectrum is outstanding. There are women in key positions of power and who are just as capable, if not more so, than their male counterparts. There are plenty of sex scenes also but not all of them felt written in for the sake of it. Sex is power within the episodes and it is used to both its advantages and disadvantages.
I cannot say enough good things about Black Sails, especially not when it needs to share the limelight with other pirate outings, but I do urge everyone to watch it for its groundbreaking and wholly engaging plot and characters, and to join in on the debate as to Captain Flint’s final fate.
So that’s our list, all entries fit for a Pirate, but perhaps there’s something else out there that you love that we might have missed? Leave us a comment and share your tales of pieces of eight and other such booty! Savvy?