Captain Red runs a hardy pirate ship with the able assistance of Frog, a dashing young French sailor. One day Capt. Red is captured and taken aboard a Spanish galleon, but thanks to his inventiveness, he raises the crew to mutiny, takes over the ship, and kidnaps the niece of the governor of Maracaibo. The question is, can he keep this pace up?Written by
Ironically, the song which Captain Red asks the Frog to sing in the last scene ("You know, that French ditty that I'm fond of") is the traditional song "Il était un petit navire", which is about a group of shipwrecked sailors who are debating how they should cook and eat the cabin boy. See more »
When I was a kid growing up I got into this PC game called Sid Meier's Pirates. I wanted to do everything pirate related. For some reason I never fully identified with the Errol Flynn pirate. He was always a good guy, who got caught up in the circumstances and was still trying to be a good guy. He was always chivalrous, clean and relatively good looking. Thank the contents of Davey Jones' locker for Roman Polanski. In all honesty, it was the VHS cover that first attracted me to this movie : Walter Matthau dressed up as a disheveled looking Captain Morgan, cutlass drawn and pointed as us.
The movie revolves mainly around the exploits of the stool-legged Captain Bartholomew Red (Mathau) and his French first mate (who at times resembles dinner), the Frog. On the heels of their last adventure (see Boca del Toro), the movie starts out in the middle of the ocean with our two protagonists on a raft floating around, mad with hunger. After encountering a Spanish galleon (the Neptune) and performing a self-rescue, the story shifts into main gear : the Aztec Throne of Zapotec Anahuak.
This is by far my favorite pirate movie. It has all the right elements - action, adventure, ship battles, wooden appendages, sword fighting, humor, barrels of rum, gold, prison, cross dressing, cockney accents, love, large feathery hats, giant wigs and even the attractive Charlotte Lewis (remember Eddie's love interest from the Golden Child). Walter Matthau is clearly the standout character in this movie. His Captain Red is an amalgamate of various pirates but yet stands on its own because of Matthau. Red is haughty, greedy, ambitious, inspirational, conniving, and single-minded when it comes to gold. This is made all the more apparent by the juxtapose to his highly idealistic first mate. Where as Captain Jack Sparrow is a bit on the weaselly side, Captain Red is more like a scraggly wolf. It was also beneficial that Matthau was a tall 6 foot 3 inches tall, giving Captain Red a larger than life persona. If not for Keith Richards, I think Captain Red could have been more than an appropriate inspiration for Mr. Depp.
Roman Polanski does an excellent job in de-glamorizing the pirate lifestyle. Even Captain Jack Sparrow is a bit on the tame side (Thank You Disney). If Errol Flynn was the prototype, then Walter Matthau is the grittier, colorized version. What Polanski did for vampires with the Fearless Vampire Killers, he does the same for the pirate genre with this movie. On top of the typical "pirate" behavior, Polanski has even added commentary on the day. This would include the class divisions between the officers and crew, the political strife between the English, Dutch, French and the haughty Spanish (the RIAA of the day) and the unquenchable lust for gold.
This movie was maligned by the critics when it came out and has since sunk into anonymity. This should not be so. It contains one of Matthau's best performances and is the best pirate movie ever made. Unfortunately, if you don't like pirates or adventure movies, then you probably will like the English Patient and not this. For everyone else, I highly recommend the Spanish (manga films) region 2 DVD of this movie (presented in anamorphic 16x9).
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