Saturday, January 14, 2017
Directed by Mel Damski and written by Graham Chapman, Peter Cook, and David McKenna with additional work by David Sherlock, Yellowbeard is about a pirate who goes on the search for his lost treasure while trying to avoid the Royal Navy who want to increase his 20 year tax evasion sentence by 140 years. The film is an offbeat comedy that has Graham Chapman in the titular role as he copes with changing times and other rivals trying to vie for the treasure. Also starring Peter Boyle, Cheech Marin, Tommy Chong, Peter Cook, Madeline Kahn, James Mason, Eric Idle, Peter Bull, Martin Hewitt, Michael Hordern, John Cleese, and Marty Feldman. Yellowbeard is a very silly but whimsical film from Mel Damski.
The film revolves a notorious pirate named Yellowbeard who had stolen some treasure from a Spanish despot only to eventually to captured and sent to prison for 20 years on tax evasion only to escape after learning his sentence has been extended to 140 years. Upon his escape, he learns from his estranged wife that he has a 20-year old son while stowing away on a merchant ship that had been taken over by his former first mate and a henchman. The film’s screenplay does have a straightforward narrative yet it is very messy as it relates to many of the situations that is happening as well as the multitude of characters involved that all want a piece of this long-lost treasure. Some of the characters are interesting but others such as Yellowbeard’s son in Dan (Martin Hewitt) aren’t so interesting as he is introduced to the world of piracy and the only reason Yellowbeard has him around because he has the map on top of his head.
Mel Damski’s direction is definitely all over the place in terms of trying to capture all of the natural elements of comedy as well as do whatever to keep the laughs going. Shot on location in England and the scenes on the beach set in Mexico, the film definitely plays into this very chaotic world of piracy where much of Damski’s compositions are straightforward but also playful. Still, the weak aspects of the script doesn’t give Damski a lot to do in creating scenes to help drive the story more in favor of trying to bring in as much laughs as he can. Some of it is very funny and definitely help create moments that are enjoyable yet there are moments where the attempt at humor feels forced. Even as it tries so much to really create something that is exciting and fun where it would succeed for some of the film’s climax but would also fall flat in some parts as it relates to Yellowbeard seeing women and raping them. Overall, Damski creates a worthwhile but very messy film about a pirate trying to reclaim the treasure that he had buried twenty years ago.
Cinematographer Gerry Fisher does excellent work with the cinematography as it play into the sunny locations of the beach and the island as well as some unique lighting for the scenes at night. Editor William H. Reynolds does terrific work with the editing as it mostly straightforward to play into the comedy and sense of adventure in the film. Production designer Joseph R. Jennings does brilliant work with the design of some of the interiors in the frigates as well as in the designs of some of the places in England and on the island. Costume designer Stephen Miles does nice work with the costumes from the ragged clothing of the pirates as well as the lavish clothing of the Spanish despot and his majordomo. Sound mixers Brian Simmons and Manuel Topete do superb work with the sound in capturing some of the action as well as the funny moments in the film. The film’s music by John Morris is wonderful for its bombastic orchestral score that play into the adventure as well as some of its humor.
The casting by Michael McLean is fantastic as it feature notable cameo appearances from Peter Bull as Queen Anne, Susannah York as Lady Churchill, Spike Milligan as a flunkie, and David Bowie as a shark. Other notable small roles include Greta Blackburn as a prostitute disguised as a naval officer, Beryl Reid as Lady Lambourn, Nigel Planer as Commander Clement’s aide Mansel, Stacey Nelkin as the despot’s daughter Triola, Kenneth Mars in a dual role as a naval officer and the despot’s torture machine creator Verudo, and James Mason in a terrific role as the naval officer Captain Hughes. John Cleese is terrific as a blind spy named Harvey Pew who works for the government and for anyone that pays him while Madeline Kahn is wonderful as Yellowbeard’s estranged wife Betty who told him about Dan and wants a share of the treasure. Michael Hordern is excellent as Dr. Gilpin who helps Yellowbeard in the quest while Peter Cook is hilarious as Lord Lambourn who also joins the journey as he has some funny moments.
Cheech Marin and Thomas Chong are superb in their respective roles as the Spanish majordomo and despot with Marin as an insubordinate who always insults his leader while Chong acts as a buffoon who thinks he’s a god. Martin Hewitt’s performance as Yellowbeard’s son Dan is really dull and awkward where he never does anything to make the character interesting as he‘s just there. Eric Idle is brilliant as Commander Clement as a Royal Navy officer who is determined to find the treasure and bring ruin to Yellowbeard as well as become a ruler of his own. Peter Boyle is amazing as Yellowbeard’s former first-mate Moon who betrayed Yellowbeard as he pretends to be a naval officer just so he can find the treasure and keep it for himself. Marty Feldman is great in his final film performance as Gilbert as Moon’s friend who escapes prison as he tries to do whatever to help Moon while being very funny in anything he’s in. Finally, there’s Graham Chapman in a crazed and fun performance as the titular character as it’s very over-the-top but it’s never dull as he just does whatever he can to bring laughs as well as be a very despicable yet fun character.
Yellowbeard is a good but very messy film from Mel Damski. While it does have a great ensemble cast and some funny moments, it’s a film that definitely isn’t for everyone in terms of its offbeat humor though it is entertaining no matter how messy it is. In the end, Yellowbeard is a fine film from Mel Damski.
© thevoid99 2017
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