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  • Pirates
    • Pirates
    • Runtime:121 min
    • Release Date:2017-01-22 09:08:08
    • Director: Roman Polanski
    • Genres: Adventure, Comedy
    • Studio:


*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I have always liked Walter Matthau movies, and swash-buckling pirate
movies, and comedy movies, so you can imagine that I would be in
absolute hog-heaven with this movie which involves all three elements!

I had always enjoyed Walter Matthau, from his Odd Couple days when he
and Jack Lemmon bounced great acidic lines off each other to his Dennis
the Menace days as Mr Wilson, and I also admired his very dramatic
efforts in Failsafe and Charade. If something has Mr Matthau in it, I
am there on the couch ready.

I did not know that he could do accents, but I was pleasantly surprised
to hear his efforts at an English pirate's drawl. Of course, I should
not have been surprised that such an experienced and professional
artist should accomplish such a task; it is, after all, his trade. He
makes a great fist of it, and there is no trace of his native lower
east-side New York accent at all. He is very convincing as a rather
bumbling pirate captain, who somehow commands the respect of his
rag-tag bunch of followers.

He is ably assisted by "Froggy", his French sidekick, (Cris Campion),
who survives their ordeals despite his captain, as they incite a mutiny
and take command of the ship which rescues them, and its treasure. They
are joined by the beautiful niece of the Governor of Maracaibo,
(Charlotte Lewis), who falls for Froggy.

This is a hoot of a pirate picture, and a romantic comedy, and the
producers actually had the Spanish galleon built to full size by
Maltese and Italian craftsmen. I believe that that is typically Roman
Polanski though, going all out on the sets and damn the cost!

"Pirates" did not do well at the box office due to Roman Polanski's
troubles with the U.S. legal system at the time, which was unfair. It
should not be ignored by the wider populous, and deserves a fair
viewing on its own merits. I believe that anyone who watches it will be
pleasantly surprised. I love this movie, and I give it a 10 out of 10.


I can only believe that the previous reviewers were either smoking
something or had been handsomely paid off. I have never seen such a
load of complete tosh from beginning to end. It has a stellar cast
including a very early appearance by Michael Elphick in a performance
that lasts all of two minutes before he is killed, but they are totally

Where to begin? The film lacks pace throughout, there are long drawn
out scenes that lead absolutely nowhere. For example in the final
battle on the Neptune we are treated to the sight of a sombrero wearing
pirate laboriously loading his musket. Obviously this is a set up for a
sight gag. No it's just some guy laboriously loading a musket. What on
earth was the Frog supposed to be doing? You could have cut his part
completely and made absolutely no difference to the story, the actor
looked completely bewildered for most of the time as indeed I was
trying to figure out what was going on. By the way a storyline would
have been nice. The humour was on a level of a small child calling out
"bottoms" in a crowded supermarket, but not so sophisticated! The
ending, when it mercifully came, seemed to be in mid scene. One minute
they are fighting to rescue the heroine, the next you get the cast list
– heroine still not rescued! And for God's sake props people and
armourers do try and get it right. The number of times someone was
supposed to have fired a flintlock with the frizzen forward was
unbelievable. The actual props were awful, the firearms looking like
some cheap tourist souvenir.

A totally bewildering waste of time. Complete rubbish. I give it Minus
100 out of 10.


*** This review may contain spoilers ***

When Pirates came out in 1986, critics panned it and it was a
commercial failure. Much like What?, it's an unusual movie for Roman
Polanski. He's not a filmmaker immediately associated with humor,
except in a marginal way – the black humor in a crime movie like
Cul-de-sac, or a parody of the vampire movie in The Fearless Vampire
Killers. Pirates is too over-the-top and perhaps too late in history to
have an impact. After all, when The Fearless Vampire Killers came out,
the Hammer Studios were still cranking out awful horror movies worthy
of a parody. But by 1986 who remembered or cared about the Errol Flynn
movies that Pirates so clearly and lovingly mocks, updates and pays
homage to?

What I found fascinating about this movie was that Polanski wasn't just
trying to return to the good old days of romantic pirates. Oh no, his
pirates are rude, cruel, sadistic criminals. And if they perform
dashing feat, it's to rob gold-made thrones stolen from tropical tribes
and not to save romantic interests. In every genre he worked in,
Polanski always brought realism, whether it be psychological, or just
showing a protagonist wear a bandage on his face for days after having
it slashed by a knife.

It's this type of realism that Polanski brings to Pirates. He mixes the
old romantic view with the cruel reality. As the movie begins, Captain
Red (played by a hilarious Walter Matthau), contemplates eating Frog,
his servant. They're on a raft, without food or water. For Red this is
natural, it's survival, the strongest kills the weakest. And it sets
the type of black humor the movie will have.

In spite of the awful reviews this movie gets, I consider Pirates a
very well-made and well-acted movie. Walter Matthau steals the show as
Captain Red: he's cunning, vicious, violent, manipulative, always full
of himself. The character is so larger than life that he can only be
played for laughs, and Matthau understands this.

The movie was nominated for an Oscar for its costume design, which
deserved – the costumes are exuberant, colorful, inventive. But where
is recognition for its use of make-up, or for the cinematography, or
art direction. Visually speaking, this movie was splendid.

The movie is perhaps longer than it had to be, and the fact that its
characters have few redeeming traits may upset some people looking for
a good family movie with a happy ending. But people who watch it
without preconceived ideas may be surprised and get into the spirit of
the movie's absurdity.

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