Saturday, July 7, 2012


According to Wikipedia, "the movie was made soon after the 1980 New York City Central Park and 1981 Broadway theatre production of The Pirates of Penzance produced by Joseph Papp, which re-popularized swashbuckling pirates as a theatrical genre."

Since PIRATE MOVIE only uses a few songs from the Gilbert and Sullivan work, it's likely that the filmmakers didn't have overall rights, for most of the music is original.  None of the music comes close to the standard of the operetta, though the opening number "Victory" (using shots from the 1942 pirate flick THE BLACK SWAN) is a fun pirate-cliche mashup.  There's also a strange number with the quizzical title "Pumpin' and Blowin'," that can't help but sound borderline-pornographic despite the presence of cartoon fish and the bubblegum-pop stylings of singer Kirsty McNychol.

Unlike PENZANCE, PIRATE MOVIE is a metaphenomenal film in that the majority of the action takes place within the dream-fantasies of central character Mabel as she loosely re-enacts the story of PENZANCE from a female perspective. This conceit aligns the film with the uncanny version of the trope "delirious dreams and fallacious fantasies."  Mabel doesn't technically enter the sort of fantasy-worlds seen in films like THE DAYDREAMER; it's closer in tone to the Monkees film HEAD, in which the audience watches the dreamer pass through a farrago of strange experiences.  Aside from the aforementioned cartoon animals, the film also includes very dated fantasy-intrusions from STAR WARS and RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, as well as a moment where Kirsty McNychol simply stops the action and demands a "happy ending."

There's no great depth in this very 80s comic romp, so I grade the psychological motifs of the comedy pretty low on the mythicity scale.  There's not even an interesting Oedipal conflict between Mabel, her age-appropriate lover Frederic (Chris Atkins), and Frederic's adoptive father The Pirate King, who makes a pass or two at Mabel, calling her a "nymphette."  For those who lived through the 80s, however, it does provide a wonky touchstone for the era, and is certainly easier to watch than a lot of the more popular badfilms of the decade-- which probably accounts for its sentimental popularity on IMDB.

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