Year of Release: 1983
Date Viewed: August 6th, 2010
MPAA Rating: PG
In an episode of Family Guy, Peter tortures his daughter Meg by forcing her to watch all of the Monty Python sketches that were not funny or memorable. I wonder if Yellowbeard was a part of that marathon because it certainly was not funny or memorable to me.
The cast sure looked promising. We've got Monty Python icons John Cleese and Eric Idle, Brooksfilm regulars Marty Feldman and Madeline Kahn; and Cheech and Chong being Cheech and Chong. How they all decided to sign on for this project is beyond me. Maybe someone cashed in on some favors.
Yellowbeard is basically a spoof of pirate swashbuckling flicks. It follows the same familiar format that has followed the genre since it became popular. A prison escape followed by an ocean voyage then concluding with a sea battle and a treasure discovery on a deserted island. Parodies are allowed to be cliched so no points subtracted there.
The title character is played by Graham Chapman. Captain Yellowbeard is one of the most feared pirates of the Caribbean. And rightfully so. According to the opening sequence, he enjoys eating the ripped out organs of his adversaries. Yellowbeard is eventually imprisoned for tax evasion (an obvious nod to Al Capone) and sentenced to twenty years behind bars.
Time passes and Yellowbeard is near completion of his sentence. Before he is released, it comes to the attention of Commander Clement (Eric Idle) that Yellowbeard had hidden a valuable chest full of treasure just before capture. The prosecutors extend his sentence in the hopes that he would make a paranoid escape from jail and go after his treasure. The plan works and soon the Commander and a motley crew of incompetent buccaneers join the quest to steal his fortune.
It's such a bizarre film mainly because the movie cannot decide on who the main character is or even what kind of a movie it is. Yellowbeard himself is hardly seen after the first thirty minutes. The Commander's crew is not interesting enough to carry the story. Yellowbeard's newly revealed son is not given a chance to entertain. A blind character played by John Cleese only exists to try and make the audience laugh at "he can't see but he can hear" jokes that anyone can see coming. No pun intended.
And the pacing is almost nonexistent. If this movie intended to be a farce, it can't pretend to be serious at the same time. Some scenes are played straight as if they are trying to be a legit imitator of Treasure Island. Other scenes are filled with punchlines and slapstick that seem to belong to another movie. Slapstick easily amuses me but the material seen here is enough to make the Three Stooges turn in their graves. Grabbing onto a metal object that had just spent time near a burning flame can only survive as a two second gag. Having the character wince silently in pain while still holding onto the object for twenty seconds doesn't make the gag funnier.
If Yellowbeard had been intentionally bad, I could have at least given it credit for originality. But I'm not convinced that its poor production was done on purpose. There were too many lost opportunities for genius humor especially with the resources available to work with. Skip this one.