DVD of the Week – The Pirates of Penzance (1983)


Another movie drops off the “why isn’t that on DVD yet?!” list with today’s long-overdue release of the 1983 film version of The Pirates of Penzance. I just love this movie. Transposed from a successful Broadway staging, it’s a thoroughly delightful rendition of Gilbert and Sullivan’s classic operetta. The deliberate, overt theatricality only adds to its charm.

Seeing it in the theater is one of my clearest childhood movie memories. I think I must have seen it on TV once or twice in the intervening years as well, because I can’t believe I would still be able to sing so many choruses without at least one or two repeat viewings. Be that as it may, Kevin Kline cavorting about the deck and in the rigging Douglas Fairbanks-style in the “Pirate King” number, the paradox song, the “modern major general” number, and many other great moments are indelible big-screen movie memories.

It’s also the movie that made Kevin Kline a star, the movie that revived Angela Lansbury’s film career, and the career move that launched Linda Ronstadt out of the rock music arena. The DVD is a barebones release (it wasn’t held up for all these years because they were putting together lots of features, that’s for sure). But, that’s okay. We’re happy just to have the film at last.

New releases this week: Letters to Juliet, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, Just Wright

5 responses to “DVD of the Week – The Pirates of Penzance (1983)

  1. We are very very happy! It must have been broadcast once because I had a wretched home-taped copy that I watched way past its lifespan. Just reading your notice has bright snatches of music bouncing around in my head. We are so happy!

    • Dark as a Dungeon and the Pirate King song have been fighting it out in my head for the last two days. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

  2. Walker Research pulled me out of some shopping at Washington Square Mall to run ads, trailers, and posters past me as part of a survey. Afterwards, I had no desire to see it.

  3. this is the film that proves that in musicals heart can often beat technical prowess – check out the priceless moment when the mayhem derails a more traditional staging of a G&S show (complete with sleeping audience members).

    Other highlights include an early scene where the pirates are go from amazed to weary at the skilled singing of another character and, of course, the bendy entrance of the town police.

    A brilliant film, long overdue a DVD release.

  4. @Ken: Now that was a marketing misfire to remember!

    @Wynter: Thanks for commenting! I’d forgotten those parts until you reminded me of them. Good thing I’ll soon be seeing it again. ^_^


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