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Excellent dark pirate adventure/comedy
iqof2012 February 2003
Pirate movies are few and far between. Its hard to get people to buy off on a script containing ~40 minutes of "Arrrr" and "Aye Matie".

However, Pirates is just a great fun romp through being a nasty, dirty, pirate. This is one of Walter Matthau's best roles. He literally becomes Captain Red. At no moment do you associate this man w/ any of this other roles.

Too many jokes and gags to list, but not a comedy in the traditional sense. It is an adventure first with humor thrown in.

Less of a comedy and more adventure than Yellowbeard. Darker, deeper, better, and less glitzy than Cutthroat Island. All around, a great classic pirate movie and virtually defines the genre.
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Walter Matthau's Captain Red leaves a lasting impression
Zack_Hobson24 June 2003
Roman Polanski's Pirates, starring Walter Matthau as the avaricious Captain Red, is an absolutely hilarious comedy/adventure. The cast of characters is varied and interesting and the sets appear very authentic. The movie contains excellent dialogue, good swashbuckling choreography and plenty of physical humour which borders on the bawdy at times. The story is simple and dynamic and is completely driven by the characters.

I like this movie for its characters. Each one's desires become the focus of fanatical efforts. Throw in some fascinating (though often exaggerated) character quirks, and the cast makes this movie. The rough, oafish Captain Red desires gold. The handsome, quiet Frog desires Dolores. The stiff, foppish Don Alfonso desires power. In the end, who will get what he desires? Most assuredly not EVERYONE.

I only have ONE favorite movie and this is it. I know it is not for everyone (my wife hates it). However, for Matthau fans, or fans of the historical genre, this movie is a fun night out with plenty of laughs. I recommend it strongly.
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One of Polanski's Most Underrated Films
Bloodfordracula26 May 2004
Pirates is one of Roman Polanski's most underrated films along with The Fearless Vampire Killers and the Tenant. While the latter two films are masterpieces, Pirates is a very good pirate film that's never received it's due.

Polanski redefines the pirate film while still paying tribute to the swashbuckling genre. This film is the perfect companion piece to The Fearless Vampire Killers. Walter Matthau gives an excellent performance as the fearless Pirate and the rest of the cast's performances hit all the right notes. Polanski's direction is masterful as always. The photography and musical score are also very good. From a purely technical standpoint this film is excellent. The script is really the only thing that keeps this film from attaining greatness.

MGM who now hold the DVD rights (they now own the rights to the entire Cannon film library) must release this film as soon as possible in it's uncut, 124 minute widescreen glory (I suggest emailing MGM).

Film rating: 9 out of 10.
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Matthau is Superb! One of Polanskis most underestimated movie.
rickihogaard31 May 2004
Watch this movie. Walther Matthaus acting is quite superb. People are talking about Pirates of the Carribean these days, and Depps performance, which is also quite funny but it is my opinion that Matthau personifies that which Depp (tries to) plays in PotC. Matthau is the perfect old-school pirate drunkard and simply hilarious. As an extra notable performance is Frog (Cris Campion) playing a french retard which falls in love with the fair Maria-Dolores. This Polanski film is a gem. I cant call it the best pirate movie ever made because i haven't seen them all, but i can tell you that its the best I've seen yet, and i suspect that it will stay that way. Its just a shame that it never got the credits that it deserved.

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Apparently savaged, for inexplicable reasons, by critics who should know better
ephraimwaite21 March 2005
This enjoyably foolish romp was apparently a flop, and mauled by the critics. Why? Good question. I speculate three reasons: lack of an obviously American lead and presence, an opening set-up that pays off in the long run but doesn't provide a beginning with a bang, and an anarchic, politically incorrect, almost amoral tone that was not digestible to Disneyfied mainstream audiences. These, and the length of the piece, would have been strengths if this had been released as a children's book, and I further speculate that it would have been well received in such a format, as a homage to old stories like Treasure Island. It could then have been adapted into a hit movie (with more explosions and an ethically impeccable American hero who does get the girl in the end).

As it is, there is much to admire, delight and entertain, with legitimate criticisms being some of the dodgy casting and (lack of)linguistics (especially as regards the Spanish characters) - Walther Matthau's gloriously over-the-top performance honourably excepted - some lapses of logic in the plot (why doesn't the Frog just swim after the rowboat and bring it back when they get stuck on the chain?), and the fact that it is slightly too long.

Ripe for a sequel, if, like me, you ever wondered what happened to Cap'n Red and his beloved throne, and The Frog and his beloved Dolores.
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R I B @ C
PMGII27 March 2000
I have been a near Polanski fan for many years; since seeing Chinatown. But after watching Pirates, my suspicions have been confirmed; Polanski's talents did not wane with his exile from the U.S. Basically what I'm trying to say here is Polanski's talent for genre redefinition is alive and well in this wonderfully comedic look at the action-adventure film. Not only this, but he also manages to re-evaluate and comment on the action hero as well as the genre as a whole. It is puzzling, as in most Polanski films, to ask yourself are the main characters heroes, and if so what kind? and if they are heroes, then to look at the way the film treats them... and with Polanski this is always a fresh, beautiful, and rewarding task.
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A modern swashbuckling classic, arr!
Vassago3 May 2000
"Arr, mateys, shiver me timbers!" is what you feel like shouting while watching this involving modern pirate movie that should become a classic. Roman Polanski had wanted to make a pirate movie such as this one for a long time, starting in the Lodz Film Academy in Poland, and finally did it - unfortunately, the problems he had affected the movie and made it a theatrical flop. Quite unfairly, as it has everything a pirate fan might want - a lovely score, breathtaking scenery, props and settings, a script that is adventurous and funny, good acting - and plenty of fun and adventure! And, most importantly, the amazing Walter Matthau as the best stereotypical pirate cap'n you'll ever see! Matthau performance is breathtaking - I can see his Cap'n Red standing arm-in-arm with Blackbeard, Black Bart and Captain Kidd, shouting orders at the "mateys"... Highly recommended for any fan of swashbuckling adventures - and for everyone else! (And while you're out to buy this movie, don't miss the equally underrated, and also very good, newer "Cutthroat Island" with Frank Langella).
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Oh Captain Morgan, where have thou gone ?
CelluloidRehab24 August 2006
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).

-Celluloid Rehab
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The best pirate film
daneelo7 March 2004
This film is one of Polanski's masterpieces. He did to pirate movies what Sergio Leone did to western: showing the opposite of the usual sancticised glamorous movie portrayal of an era, yet achieving an epic effect, and images you want to see again and again.

But a difference to Leone, beyond a high dose of irony and situation comic, is the bittersweet ingredient of the Central-Eastern-European experience, of lack of success and constant failure, constantly hitting all of our heroes in the film.

Memories of living under communism might have also played a role in the (for me) most memorable part of the movie, the failed mutiny followed by the successful mutiny aboard the Spanish ship: the way the aristocrats have power over the people, and make Captain Red and The Frog eat the rat. And then, hilarious juxtaposing, the mutiny is like a parody of a communist revolution.

But the best thing about the film are the actors. Walter Matthau is at his best as the grumpy old liar Captain Red, Damien Thomas is terrific as Don Alfonso the hyper-arrogant Spanish aristocrat who'll never loses his superiority, Roy Kinnear the embodiment of ugliness as the Dutch, and also the young no-names Cris Campion (playing The Frog, the naive young Frenchman at Captain Red's side) and Charlotte Lewis (playing the even more naive daughter of the governor).
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An other world fantasy
f6414 November 2002
This is an other world fantasy only Polansky could have invented. Nothing offers any foundation we can get a hold of. Except maybe for the slightly recognizable Matthau nothing in this flick is common movie going experience. Polansky uses everything he can from script to sets to actors and acting to make us feel a total disconnection from days gone by. From yummy hindquarters to yummy rats, from Archibaldo's gout to a lawyer's tongue not to mention bathing in a toilet this is a totally bizzare experience. I rate this a must see to anyone interested in seeing direction gone wild.
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This is the PIRATES in Pirates of the Caribbean.
abcosv24 September 2004
This is the story about the pirate captain Thomas Bartholomew Red, played by Walther Matthau, and his struggle to get a famous aztec treasure from the hands of the Spanish nation. Escaping from a desert island with his faithful french sailor "the Frog", his soul purpose in life becomes that of getting his hands on the treasure, a throne of solid gold.

Walther Matthau plays extraordinarily well in his role as the great captain, with Cris Campion as the faithful right hand.

This movie is extremely underrated, the fact that Pirates of the Caribbean is actually rated higher, is an outrage. The Disney tale of ghosts and magic is just a fairytale. Pirates on the other hand, gives us a view of the fight between the classes, aristocrats versus the common laborer, all based in the pirate age of the caribbean.

This movie gets a 8/10 from me.
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visual treasure worth a pirate's hoarde
kperrodin4 August 2001
Though a bit shaky on historical specifics, this is a visually rich film that is simply fun to watch. This Walter Matthau is NOT the same Grumpy Old Man. This one is a charismatic sociopath who cheerfully and loudly sacrifices everything and nearly everyone in the quest for gold. Still, it is the atmosphere of the film that captures you. You experience the clinging Carribbean air, the rank dungeon and bilge deck prisons, the salt breezes and jungle rot. Though these are evil characters, the audience roots for the pirates as they are turned away from their goal by Spaniards, nature and their own greed. This movie is an evolutionary leap from the Errol Flynn and Burt Lancaster pirates and well worth a bowl of popcorn.
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The best pirate film of recent times
robinking17 January 2003
I agree with many of the comments here, but most have opted to concentrate on Walter Matthau's (forgive the spelling if it's wrong) delicious performance as Captain Red. While it is undeniably brilliant - a few dodgy accent moments aside - especially when you consider how few risks many actors take with their casting, I would like to draw attention to a fine performance by Cris Campion as The Frog. When I was watching this again the other day and getting my girlfriend to watch it, she at first despaired when I told her the frog was the romantic lead. I told her to have patience, and at the end she could, after all, see why he was the object of Dolores' love. Head and shoulders above nearly all young actors around at the moment, Campion exudes passion, swashbuckling- derring-do and smouldering charm as well as being an excellent foil for Matthau's comic exertions. This makes his love story with Dolores all the more heightened and genuinely affecting. In many modern "buddy" films, the onscreen duo have no chemistry and are simply put together to maximise box office interest, but Matthau and Campion are a perfectly matched pair, the frog's unfaltering loyalty to his captain matching Red's utterly selfish backstabbing. You get the feeling that if there is one person in the world that Red would not betray, it might be the frog - even if he might eat him!
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Do not miss this film if you like Walter Matthau.
Michael Aarons29 June 2004
Oh dear me,How can any one say this is a awful film.

Captain Thomas Bartholomew Red played by Walter Matthau,is just great, Walter Matthau plays this roll with great easy it is not so much as what lines he says but the way he plays the roll.

Just look out for the the looks that Walter Matthau gives to camera,it will have you laughing out loud & if you like me will be on the side of Captain Thomas Batholomew Red.

I only wish is that this film will be available on DVD, I look each week hoping to see that it is now available.

I will be the first to add this Film "Pirates" to my collation.
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Matthau makes it work!
loufalce26 October 2007
Essentially a rehash of every pirate movie ever made, it is predictable, somewhat slow moving at times and chock full of historic anachronisms. Thats the bad part. The good part is Matthau.He pulls out all the stops and makes his character come alive!hough it is a comedic performance{its a pirate movie, right} it is one of the best he has ever given, even considering the excellent work he's done with Jack Lemmon.He IS the show and really towers over what basically is a no-name cast, though the Frog ain't half bad. The part with the rat is priceless. There is good scenery, a17th century galleon that looks the part and a great musical score too.So for something a little bit different and unusual, its worth seeing. Hard to believe a "serious" director like Polanski would do a film like this, but thats part of the fun.
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swashbuckling fun for all the family
rocksalmonuk23 June 2002
walter matthau gives a great performance in this fun swashbuckler as a greedy cap'n red tries to get his hands on a golden throne with the aid of the frog. its been a few years since i've seen this film but scenes such as the duo adrift on a raft with red eyeing up frog as a tasty meal and red in a lifeboat stacked with treasure baling out the overladen boat, rather than dumping some of the treasure are some of the moments i remember most. lots of underhand and sneaky doings make it a humerous and memorable movie. well worth watching and a great performance from walter i do hope it will be released on DVD soon so i can add it to my collection.
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Love it or hate it... Well, Just love it!
olivierrenault3 December 2005
Judging by the comments this is a love / hate kinda debate. Personnaly, this is definitely a love thing for me. This is one of the most memorable movie I've seen as a kid. Pirates have always been my thing anyway, but that movie just hits the spot. Forget Errol Flynn, men in tights, daring do, platonic romance, this is a dirty, gritty, sometimes macabre affair, but always funny, and the duo lead actor works wonderfully.

If you've seen Pirates Of The Caribbean (who hasn't), you'll see that it borrowed an awful lot from Polanski's. I definitely recommend it, an awesome pirate flick! - I haven't seen the English version, but the French version is more than adequate. No silly accents, sharp dialogs, very good.
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The most underrated movie of all time
freedomFrog3 January 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Directed by Roman Polanski ("Chinatown", "Rosemary's baby", "The pianist" for which he won a best director Oscar), here comes the tale of Captain Thomas Bartholomew Red, one of the most feared pirates on the Spanish main, and his French swashbuckling sidekick, "The frog" (Cris Campion). Stranded at sea, they are saved by a Spanish galleon. They immediately set their goal to commandeer the ship and steal the aztec golden throne it is carrying back to Spain.

A huge commercial and critical flop at the time of its release, "Pirates"'s reputation with film critics has not grown other the year. It is still considered a cinematic disgrace on Polanski's resume, exhibit A along with "Cutthroat Island" anytime a terrible god awful pirate movie needs to be mentioned. This has always puzzled me as this is definitely one of the funnier movie I have ever seen and a personal favorite.

"Pirates" is the equivalent for pirate movies of the Italian western comedies of the 70s ("My name is nobody", "they call me Trinity"). The rule of the genre are respected but the overall tone is clearly parodic with over-the-top characters and slapstick humor. The story is told from the point of view of characters with rather shady moral standards and whose main motivation are far more material and earthly than your traditional movie heroes. Everything and everybody is a little more dirtier and sweater than in your traditional Hollywood fare. This might sound a little but like the "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise and indeed, they are many similarities: Red is a close cousin of captain Barbossa and share the same devil-may-care attitude as Jack Sparrow; the frog could be Will Turner's long lost brother.

Besides the swashbuckling and humorous story, one thing that makes "Pirates" such a blast is the two main characters and their interaction. Red and the frog are almost like the evil ancestors of Tintin and Captain Haddock. Played admirably by Walter Matheau with a clear nod to Long John Silver, Red is a rotten son-of-a-gun whose only interest in life seems to be gold and things made out of gold. Without any moral compass besides his own interest, he is exactly the kind of bad guy we love to root for. Yet, he would not go far without the assistance of the frog, a more idealistic character whose loyalty to Red remains a puzzle during the whole movie and suggests a deep rooted friendship between the two men.

The movie has many great scenes: the intro where, stranded on a small raft at sea without any food, Red attempt to eat the frog ("You will go to hell if you do that Captain: cannibalism is a deadly sin," "What do you think confession is for, my boy?"), the part where Red and the frog are forced by the Spanish captain to eat a rat they have put in the crew's soup in an attempt to start a mutiny on the ship or the absolute kick-ass moment: Red shooting a cannonball into his own ship before boarding the Spanish gallion so his crew have no choice but to win the fight (at the same time, of course, he has the frog preparing a row boat full of food so he can get off as soon as he get the throne, leaving his crew fighting the Spanish!). And let's not forget the greed-not-love-conquer-all ending!

All in all, this fun swashbuckling critic-hated tale of amoral pirates has to be the one of the most underrated movie of all time. So bad that it is so difficult to find this day in video!
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Just Didn't Get Into It
gavin694220 April 2011
Captain Red (Walter Matthau) runs a hardy pirate ship with the able assistance of Frog, a dashing young French sailor.

Featuring a peg leg, cannibalism, a mutiny... this has everything that a pirate film should have. Fans of the Johnny Depp films may like this -- many of the scenes look like the exact same sets were used.

Written and directed by Roman Polanski and unlike anything else he has down. I could draw a line to "MacBeth" because of the period costumes, but that is the biggest connection i can force. Roman Polanski conceived this film several years before he actually made it. He had hoped to cast Jack Nicholson as Captain Red, and himself as The Frog. I think I would have enjoyed that more.
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My first taste of Polanski, the man who made me happy with Pirates
iF....19 March 2000
Before you go on reading my comments on Pirates I must advise you that this review is somewhat biased. I first saw this movie when I was in the 1st grade. My fascination with pirates is indescribable. I loved pirates; I bought toys of them, tried to dress like them and well.. I wanted to be a pirate when I grew up. Yes it was another one of my childhood fantasies. I wanted to be the next Captain Hook, which I learned to master and draw him better than Disney himself. Eventually I came across the movie Pirates at a local video rental store. Back in the day I just saw old movies for the hell of it (Also because 80s movies were terrible!). The only person I really knew whose films I was watching was Alfred Hitchcock. I wasn't aware that when I saw Pirates that I was actually seeing a movie by one of my greatest idols, Roman Polanski. The same occurred with Stanley Kubrick movies, I saw them but I didn't know he made them, anyways that's another story. Being in 1st grade, you can imagine I fell in love with this movie. I saw it over and over again. Then of course I completely forgot about Pirates.

18 years later I finally saw Pirates again, this time being aware it was directed by my idol Roman Polanski. Now that I am more aware with film styles I can say that Pirates is a good movie. Yes I know this was one of the biggest budget disasters of the 1980s but I guess it just didn't appeal to people. I consider this to be Polanski's effort of trying to make a Spielberg style film in an attempt to make it in the mainstream. Fortunately the effort is there; the public simply wasn't attracted to the concept.

The characters are memorable; they are quite possibly the most cartoonish and believable pirate characters in film. The story is decent, the theme of a pirate's greed for gold and how he will do anything to obtain it. The acting is good, yes there are a lot of goofy elements of humor, still it doesn't deteriorate the movie experience. There are two breathtaking things in this film. The first is the Spanish ship. Wow that's a beautiful ship! Second are the Spanish costumes. Those are the most impressive and stylish costumes I've ever seen in film. It makes the Spaniards look powerful and fancy. Pirates is a literal conversion from the typical comic book pirate character brought into film. For anyone who ever liked pirates as a kid or likes pirates, I highly recommend this film. With plenty of action and upbeat situations makes this the ultimate movie experience for pirate lovers all over the world. Hmm, I just said upbeat. Like every single Polanski movie there is always a depressing factor to his movies, which deprives the audience from having joy. So yeah there are upbeat themes, but the ending is somewhat sad in relation to The Frog. It was sad to see this movie again after so long, made me feel old. Oh well, I'm just happy I had a taste of Polanski movies when I was a kid.
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Quirky romp fails to satisfy on any level
Libretio22 March 2005

Aspect ratio: 2.39:1 (Panavision)

Sound format: 6-track Dolby Stereo

(35mm and 70mm release prints)

A crafty pirate (Walter Matthau) and his young French sidekick (Cris Campion) cross swords with the villainous captain of a Spanish galleon (Damien Thomas).

Director Roman Polanski's return to commercial film-making after a seven year absence (following TESS in 1979) was a critical and commercial disappointment. His quirky humor doesn't translate to the period (unlike, say, his Hammer pastiche DANCE OF THE VAMPIRES), and he directs the action scenes with a clunky imprecision that almost sinks the entire project. On the plus side, however, Matthau's performance is appropriately larger than life, while newcomers Campion and Charlotte Lewis provide eye-candy of the highest order. A stellar supporting cast (Roy Kinnear, Bill Fraser, Ferdy Mayne, Anthony Dawson, Ian Dury, et al) romps amiably through lavish production values, all wasted on this empty-headed nonsense. Watchable, but unsatisfying.

(English version)
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A Delightful Pirate Romp with an atypical Matthau
theowinthrop22 December 2005
Walter Matthau played many villains in his career, but his performance of the greasy, dirty, thoroughly charismatic Thomas Bartholemew Red is one of the best. Pulling out all stops (presumably with the blessings of director Roman Polanski) Matthau acted as the personification of guile and greed. He is seen floating on a raft at the beginning with his one loyal crewman "Frog" (Chris Campion), and are rescued by a Spanish galleon that they learn is carrying a treasure (a golden throne) and the daughter of a Spanish Governor. Matthau gets started stirring up the crew's discontent, in order to take over the galleon. But despite his stratagems, it is not easy - due to the countermeasures of Don Alfonso De la Torres (Damien Thomas), who is as ruthless in his way as Matthau is.

This film would be memorable for just one moment I never forgot - to stir up the crew to mutiny, Red and Frog "find" a dead rat in the crew's food. The rat is brought to the attention of Torres. Instead of stammering apologies, Torres asks the pertinent question if any other rats were found in the food or on the ship. The crew thinks about it, and have to admit none were. So there is only this rat. Torres looks at the rat, and points out it looks like it isn't' even the type of rat found on boats at sea. It looks like a land rat - in which case, the rat was planted. So who found it? Red and Frog are brought forward. Torres does not beat them. He takes his sword, and cuts the dead rat in half. He gives half to each man, and tells to eat it. With some self-control, both men finish their half of the rat!

Later was another scene regarding camera angles and bathtub shots. Roy Kinnear was playing a seventeenth century fence, who is useful to Matthau and the other pirates, but universally disliked (he gets his cut from the treasures, but he never puts his own life on the line regarding getting the treasures). Kinnear is taking a bath when Captain Red is announced. He knows that Red particularly dislikes him. A moment later Red is standing before the naked Kinnear in his steaming tub. While a disgusted Kinnear watches (we see Red from the back) the pirate urinates into Kinnear's bathtub.

Any film with two sequences like that is unforgettable and entertaining.
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A complete load of rubbish
bob-11358 August 2010
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 wasted.

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.
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Cast adrift - 46%
Benjamin Cox21 March 2005
What is it about famous directors and pirate movies? Spielberg famously completed "Hook" while he took a break from directing "Schindler's List" and the great Roman Polanski gives us "Pirates". I'd love to know what was on his mind at the time - what was he thinking about because clearly something was occupying his thoughts. This is muddled, poorly cast and way too dull to be a proper pirate movie.

Walter Matthau is roped in to play Captain Red, a scurvy sea-dog with an occasional East London accent (it changes from time to time, for some reason) and a French companion called Frog (Cris Campion). Together, they drift on the high seas starving and thirsty until they are fortunate enough to come across a Spanish galleon, led by the villainous Don Alfonso de la Torré (Damien Thomas). After leading the crew on a mutiny, Captain Red believes his luck may be about to change for the better. But the Spanish have other ideas...

Before I start to list the things I don't like about "Pirates" (and it is a list, sadly), I have to say that the costumes look fantastic. Couldn't fault those at all. Captain Red looks like a real pirate (pegleg and all) while the Spanish are all decked out like the foppish dandies that they are, curled wigs and thin moustaches. Top notch. The ship that forms the basis of the power struggle, the Neptune, also looks incredible. Having spent a fair amount of time on a replica ship of a similar nature, I feel that the Neptune is a fine vessel and looks perfectly at home on screen. Sadly, the same amount of effort was not given to the story or direction. Polanski seems to have had an off-day here, for whatever reason, as the film takes ages to hit its stride and when it does, you are far too bored to care. This is also a major problem with the casting. All the Spanish characters speak in perfect Queen's English, a mismatch not exactly helped when they look like courtiers in the court of Charles I.

Only Matthau seems to have any interest in the thing, growling and hobbling his way through the picture while almost everyone else looks as blank as a sheet of printer paper. Campion's French accent is barely noticeable and the strange black guy in the brig (I think he was a chef but I can't remember his name or the actor who played him) had the word "quota" stamped all over him. This wouldn't be so bad if he served any purpose but he doesn't. As the film progresses, it turns into a sort of "Carry On Walking Up The Plank" with terrible cross-dressing, farcical fight scenes and yo-ho-hoeing for all they are worth. Pirates of the Caribbean was more realistic than this and I'm talking about the Disney ride! In short, it does nothing to further anyone's career and is probably ideal if you're having trouble sleeping. Unless you must watch every Polanski film ever made or you fancy the frankly bizarre sight of Michael Elphick trying to sound Spanish, there isn't much to recommend here.
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My sympathies were with the Spanish...
Igenlode Wordsmith21 March 2005
I assumed no film could be as dire as this one was painted. Well, it has a pretty girl. And, um, a pretty boy. Oh, and the music's not bad. So far as I can see, alas, that is the sum total of things that can be said in its favour....

Perhaps its most grievous sin is that it's *not funny*. In fact, Roman Polanski's 'Pirates' has achieved an almost uniquely unfunny status in my experience, equalled only by the first reel of 'Austin Powers'. From the moment the first would-be joke hit the screen -- the fish-hook gag -- I could tell things were going to get wearisome. But I really can't call to mind any another film in which every single joke, from the vinegar enemas to the mute lawyer, has either fallen completely flat or been actively distasteful. The first time I looked at my watch to see if we were near the end yet, it was only 30 minutes in... it just didn't feel that way.

The next hour and a half managed to consist of some of the most boring action sequences I've seen. Something is badly amiss with a pirate movie when you find yourself yawning through the fight scenes, let alone rapidly ending up hoping the main character will come to a sticky end. 'Captain Red' is not only disgusting, despicable, greedy and incompetent, he manages to be simultaneously tedious and actively irritating.

Humour is an odd and an idiosyncratic thing, but when it completely misses the mark for you the film becomes a real ordeal. Perhaps the millions who loved Austin Powers find this film more amusing than I did. As for caring about any of the principal characters... the luckless 'Frog' and his ladylove are a decorative and occasionally sweet pair; but since any hint of romance is instantly shattered by efforts at coarse comedy, it's hard to get worked up about their fate. Which is just as well, really.

'Pirates' is not even bad enough to be good in an Ed Wood sort of way. If you like pirate films -- don't on any account watch this one. If you don't like pirate films, *definitely* don't watch it! Be wiser than I was. Take the advice I ignored... and whoever you are, don't watch this film. A film *can* deserve its reputation as an all-out stinker, and this one does.
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