The Pirate Movie (1982)

Cast (partial)
Major-GeneralBill Kerr
Pirate KingTed Hamilton
SamuelChuck McKinney
FredericChristopher Atkins
SergeantGarry McDonald
MabelKristy McNichol
EdithKate Ferguson
KateRhonda Burchmore
IsabelCathrine Lynch
RuthMaggie Kirkpatrick

Written by Trevor Farrant
Additional Music by Peter Sullivan
Cinematography by Robin Copping
Directed by Ken Annakin

Movie Postier
Movie Poster

This send-up of The Pirates of Penzance was clearly inspired by the success of Papp's Pirates on Broadway. The adaptation is extremely loose; we see far more of Trevor Farrant and Peter Sullivan than of Gilbert and Sullivan. The protagonists — Kristy MicNichol and Christopher Atkins — were teen idols at the time this was made, and the film was clearly intended to appeal to a juvenile audience. If you can ignore what you know about the original opera, the film is a clever romp in its own right. It has far less to do with G&S than the Papp production (which, despite all the criticism it has received, is comparatively faithful to the original). Ironically, this version beat Papp to the big screen and was considerably more successful.

Here's Phil Sternenberg's capsule review:

Do yourself a favor and try to find a copy of The Pirate Movie, no matter how bad you've heard it is. If you know the real Pirates backwards and forwards and inside out, especially if you've performed in it, the movie is good for laughs (and groans, much the way you'd react to an atrocious pun). It's so bad it's good, much as Plan 9 From Outer Space is considered. It would be a complete mystery and have little, if any, entertainment value for someone with no knowledge of the real Pirates, though. For example (spoken, not sung as in the real Pirates):

Frederic: A terrible disclosure has just been made.

Mabel: Then zip it up.

I agree with Phil: it's so bad, it's good!

Selections from the soundtrack were issued on Polydor, including even an 8-track release (a format I thought obsolete in 1982). There was both a single LP (13 tracks) and a double LP (20 tracks). I am not sure if the cassette and 8-track releases matched the single LP or the double LP.

Adrian Bridgeman, who has a promotional copy of the single LP, sent me the following list of selections:

Side 1Side 2
  • Victory
  • First Love
  • How can I Live Without Her
  • Hold On
  • We Are The Pirates
  • Pumpin' and Blowin'
  • Stand Up And Sing
  • I Am A Pirate King
  • Happy Ending
  • The Major General's Song
  • Tarantara
  • The Sisters' Song
  • Come Friends who Plough the Sea

Adrian says:

"The G&S tracks are all on side 2 and are self-evident. The Major General's song includes the classic lines:

I comprehend contemporary culture North American
I straighten more piratical erections than Bo Derek can

Tarantara has a nice bounce to it but the disc has little else to commend itself.

The recording apparently has a cult following. J. Donald Smith told me that a copy offered on Ebay went for $307! However, that was an anomaly: a more typical price is $40-50 (still higher than most G&S records). On, the DVD re-issue at one point had an an astonishing five-star customer rating. As of late 2008, it had drifted all the way down to 4½ stars.

Issue History
1982 Polydor 1 LP POLD 5074 Movie soundtrack excerpts on 1 LP.
2 LP PD-2-9503 Movie soundtrack on 2 LPs. The album folds open and has 19 color pictures from the movie.
Cassette CT-2-9503  
8-track 8T-2-9503
? CBS-FOX VHS NTSC #1198 98-minute running time
2005 Anchor Bay DVD B00076ONW8 Widescreen format. Includes Director's Commentary.