Yellowbeard Cover Now what exactly is a pirate? Well, the more modern definition, is that this is a person – normally of the male persuasion – whom is a sort of aquatic lawbreaker. You can find a very good example of this in this film, Directed by Mel Damski; and Starring: Graham Chapman, Eric Idle, John Cleese, Peter Boyle, Spike Milligan, Peter Cook, Marty Feldman, Madeline Kahn, David Bowie, and James Mason. It was made in 1983, and lasts for 96 minutes.


Rapist, murderer, pirate, and all round bad-boy / tax evader, Captain Yellowbeard (Graham Chapman), has been prompted to take part in a very strange mission. Well, it is not everyday that he escapes from prison, and is told by his one time 'partner', Betty (Madeline Kahn), that he has a son called Dan (Martin Hewitt). Plus on top of that, he is also tricked by Commander Clement (Eric Idle), to recover some of his own long-lost treasure on a desert island situated somewhere.

Especially not on a Tuesday!!!!

Please note, though, this mission does start off on very shallow footing. You see, Betty has destroyed Yellowbeard’s treasure map, and has etched what was once written upon it, on top of Dan’s head, OOPS!

So what next with this adventure you might wonder, huh? Bind Harvey Pew (John Cleese) knows. He's the fool who finds out that Yellowbeard, his son, Dan, his son’s surrogate father, Lord Lambourn (Peter Cook), and the family doctor, Dr Gilpin (Michael Horden), have all gone to Plymouth, so that they can then hitch a ride on a ship to find this treasure.

Initially, Harvey tells this piece of news to Commander Clement – whom in turn follows this trail. Moreover, not so long thereafter, he subsequently tells this to two of Yellowbirds old acquaintances, Gilbert and Moon (Marty Feldmen and Peter Boyle) – whom then blow him up, BOOM!

At Plymouth harbor, Dan, Lambourn, and Dr Gilpin, all manage to get on-board a ship belonging to Captain Hughes (James Mason), after a lot of confusion of course. No – don’t you worry – I have not forgotten about Yellowbeard. Somewhat discreetly, he gains entry onto this ship as well – and under the cover of darkness – he manipulates the course of this vessel along the turbulent seas towards the island that houses his treasure.

Meanwhile, Commander Clements, likewise, obtains a ship of his own. Plus he also nabs and forces Yellowbeard’s one time 'partner', Betty, to steer him towards the island that was located upon Yellowbeard’s map. Strangely enough though, during there voyage, they pass ‘Yellowbeard’s ship’ – and attempt to fire at it with a little bit of help from crew member, Shark (David Bowie)

And does this work? No – not really. Instead, all that this intervention manages to do, is guide ‘Yellowbeards’ ship to where it is supposed to be – the Island.

Pretty crazy, right? But not as crazy as how things start to unravel once all in sundry step foot onto the Island. Dan is captured by Cheech and Chong. Yellowbeard reveals himself to the crew. Gilbert and Moon hit something. Commander Clement does something else. Overacting is punished. Betty dances. And all in all, nothing ends in the way that it would appear

Oh well! At least the treasure is in good hands, huh? Maybe?

When I was a kid, my Dad bought me a tatty old book from the ‘jumble sale’. Now this book appeared somewhat strange to me at the time, because upon the cover was a scary looking man who looked like a strange mixture of Farther Christmas and my woodwork teacher, Mr Garnet, from school. In addition to this, the pages inside this book were stranger still. Because instead of the usual comic book artwork that I was more familiar with, there was a photo-tableau comprising of men in funny looking costumes and very mean appearances.

This book was a published screenplay of this film 'Yellowbeard'.

Marty and Peter in Yellowbeard

Strange that, huh? That I would read this book, and am now reviewing this film all these years later. Though ‘strange’ is an appropriate word for this film, because the content is strange, the cast is strange, the structure is strange, and the overall nature of this film is strange too.

However, in each case, this strangeness either helps or hinders this movie.

You see, where the content is concerned, this film is funny. The one-liners come firing at you from left right and center, and at times, you can't help but miss a bit of plot because you are laughing so much. Obviously, this is aided greatly by the all-star cast, such as a select few of the Monty Python clan, Peter Cook, the Mel Brooks players, Cheech and Chong, Spike Milligan, and some other British greats like James Mason, Nigel Planer, Michael Hordern, Beryl Reid, and Susannah York.

My God! what a cast! With every single one of them, having there own time to shine in this nautical slice of silliness.

Peter and Beryl in Yellowbeard

Regrettably, thought, this may have been a bit too much for one of the key actors – most notably, Yellowbeard’s son, Martin Hewitt. Well, with this much star power around him, it does make him come across like a third wheel on occasion. Listen now, this is no disrespect to Martin at all – it is just whenever he is on screen, in actuality, I really wanted to see one of the other ‘stars’ instead.

My bad.

Also, another thing that lets 'Yellowbeard' down, is the overall structure of the piece. Now it starts off just fine, and in a strange way ends very nicely too. However, the middle section – the parts upon the ship – did not really work for me, as it did appear to be a bit fractured in the telling, and a bit stagnant in the execution. It almost seemed as if they had some sort of difficulty whilst shooting this part of the film, because the labored and maudlin tone of these segments brought the whole film down in my eyes – mainly because I did not understand why Yellowbeard hid away during this period.


Still, overall, ‘Yellowbeard’ is a must see film for a couple of reasons: (1) Marty Feldman died on this film – for real. (2) If you are a Python fan – get on with it! (3) If you want to see a reunion of the ‘Young Frankenstein’ cast – what are you waiting for? (4) You can see the evolving face of British comedy – from Spike, to Peter Cook, to Python, to Nigel Planer. (5) This movie was the inspiration for the ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ series of films. And (6) It is funny – say no more.

Oh! For a bit more information on Yellowbeard, check this out...


YELLOWBEARD YELLOWBEARD Reviewed by David Andrews on September 23, 2011 Rating: 5
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