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  Yellowbeard Buck Up, Buccaneer
Year: 1983
Director: Mel Damski
Stars: Graham Chapman, Peter Boyle, Cheech Marin, Tommy Chong, Peter Cook, Marty Feldman, Martin Hewitt, Michael Hordern, Eric Idle, Madeline Kahn, James Mason, John Cleese, Kenneth Mars, Spike Milligan, Stacey Nelkin, Nigel Planer, Susannah York, Beryl Reid
Genre: ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: Yellowbeard (Graham Chapman) was one of the most fearsome pirates of the high seas, but he met his match one day when boarding the galleon of El Nebuloso (Tommy Chong) a wealthy holy man who has untold riches to hand. Though not for much longer, as the notoriously rough Yellowbeard liberated all that treasure and buried it in a location only he knew the whereabouts of, which has proven a sticking point for his enemies who may have sent him to jail for twenty years for tax evasion but still cannot wheedle the information out of him. But there might be one way of finding out...

Before Pirates of the Caribbean was released, the pirate movie in general had suffered a pretty terrible reputation since the seventies as studios continually attempted to encourage audiences to go and see what they planned as blockbusters with millions lavished on them (or if not blockbusters then at least a decent-sized success), only to watch their profits barely register as the critics rounded on them and the public stayed away in droves. Sadly, Yellowbeard was one of those flops, a long in gestation comedy originally planned by Monty Python star Chapman as a vehicle for The Who drummer Keith Moon who was a good friend of his. Yes, a drinking buddy, since you ask.

Obviously Moon was five years dead by the time this was actually put out, but bad luck dogged the production, which in spite of enjoying a cast jampacked with comic talents attracted damn few viewers willing to actually sit down with it and give it a chance. And even for those who did, they might find the relentlessly coarse, but far from stimulating unless you liked rape jokes and lots of them, humour something of a laugh-free zone, yet as it occasionally turned up on television and home video down the years it did gather a small but loyal following largely thanks to the enormous amount of goodwill these performers generated.

Make no mistake, this was a great cast, but the trouble was there were too many of them so everyone got wheeled on for a couple of minutes to do their schtick and then ushered off so another star or two could replace them. In that manner it was possible to divine Chapman and his co-writer Peter Cook (who also took a role) were best suited to sketch comedy, and in their methods of tying to illustrate they were capable of making movies they simply showed up the benefits of the constraints of the small screen. Yellowbeard was no Bedazzled (another sketch show-like movie, far better than this), and it wasn't a patch on the best films of Monty Python, it looked like what it was, a slapdash assembly of strains to be outrageous and looking so tired.

The only way Chapman could secure funding for this was to ask some of his Python friends to appear, so John Cleese showed up purely as a favour and Eric Idle was given a more substantial role, but for all the business they had to take part in it could have been anybody. Speaking of which, playing Yellowbeard's son was Martin Hewitt who had made his film debut shortly before in Endless Love, not the best duo of movies to establish an acting career. As if the Gods were punishing the production from on high, Marty Feldman died during filming, Chapman never starred in another movie and Cook was never able to get another script filmed for cinema: both men would be dead within about ten years, never regaining their past glory. But for all the one joke nature of the enterprise - Yellowbeard the pirate is violent in every dealing with his fellow human beings - it did contain interest thanks to witnessing the myriad of comedy notables it gathered: James Mason in a film with Cheech and Chong? It happened. Music by John Morris.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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