The Pirate Movie (1982)

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Released 13-May-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Adventure Main Menu Audio
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1982
Running Time 94:37
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Ken Annakin

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Christopher Atkins
Kristy McNichol
Case ?
RPI $31.95 Music Arthur Sullivan

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Pan & Scan English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio Unknown Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement Yes
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    Adapted from Gilbert and Sullivan's The Pirates of Penzance, The Pirate Movie is an enjoyable and light-hearted camp musical, filled with slapstick and satire.

    A former artillery officer, and later lawyer, William Gilbert wrote humorous and witty poems for British magazines. He achieved his greatest success, however, when he teamed up with a professor of music, Arthur Sullivan. A child musical prodigy, and originally best known for composing Onward Christian Soldiers, Sullivan was especially gifted in writing martial-flavoured, brass-band music. Between 1871 and 1896, Gilbert and Sullivan created 14 very popular comic operettas, including HMS Pinafore, The Mikado, The Gondoliers, and of course, The Pirates of Penzance. Both later knighted, sadly Gilbert's life was tragically cut short when he died trying to rescue a drowning woman.

    With lyrics and book by William Gilbert, and music by Arthur Sullivan, The Pirates of Penzance remains an ever-popular musical. Adapted by script-writer Trevor Farrant, The Pirate Movie (1982) is a post-modern updating of the musical, aimed squarely at the youth of the 1980s. There are plenty of references to, and satire of, Star Wars, Bo Derek, and early 1980s pop-culture in general. Indeed, many of the songs have new lyrics by Terry Britten and Trevor Farrant.

    I'm not sure if one can call this an Australian film, but all the post-production work was done in Australia, Also, it was filmed entirely in Australia, mostly in Victorian national parks. The locations are great, but sadly, the production looks pretty cheap and cheesy, with some very dodgy SFX and poor animation sequences. The director, Ken Annakin, sometimes sets a slow pace, and at times the story limps along. I must say, however, that the movie gets a lift with each of the big song and dance sequences, choreographed by Aussie David Atkins.

    The plot is pretty simple: Shy and nerdy Mabel (Kristy McNichol) slips into a dream, in which she meets Frederic (Christopher Atkins), a young, dashing man, raised by pirates, but who has left the pirate life to start afresh and "go straight". After the two meet and fall in love, Frederic discovers that to be granted Mabel's hand in marriage, he must first recover Mabel's family fortune, which was previously looted by the pirates. Comic capers, silly parodies, and much slapstick ensues.

    Maybe it was nostalgia, but I enjoyed seeing Kristy McNichol and Christopher Atkins on-screen again. As a small child of five or six, I used to love Kristy in the television series Apple's Way (1974-5) and Family (1976), and later in the movie Little Darlings (1980). I don't recall seeing her again until she appeared topless in the very racy Two Moon Junction (1988). Then she seems to have vanished again. As for Christopher Atkins, to my surprise he's never given up what he calls "acting". Indeed, just about every year since his movie debut with Blue Lagoon (1980) he's been 'starring' in movies, although apart from The Pirate Movie (1982), I don't think I've heard of any of them. The Pirate Movie has some great supporting actors, including Aussies Ted Hamilton as the Pirate King, Bill Kerr as as the Major General, Maggie Kirkpatrick as Ruth, and Garry McDonald as the Inspector.

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Transfer Quality


    This grainy transfer has the quality of a good VHS tape.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, and I assume it is pan and scan due to the manner in which the large production numbers are ruined by having the cast on the two sides of the screen cut off.

    The sharpness varies in quality from bad to okay, and the shadow detail is lacking, especially in the darker scenes such as at 36:45.

    The colour is mostly okay, but occasionally appears washed out. The skin tones are a little too brown, and some whites appear grey.

    MPEG artefacts plague this transfer, and both pixelization (for example at 46:17) and posterization (for example in the faces at 14:32 and 46:28) are present. The poor compression also accentuates the grain throughout. Film-to-video artefacts are present in the form of aliasing, such as the slight shimmer on the costume at 17:44. Film artefacts appear throughout, but most are small and not distracting.

    Only English subtitles are present on the DVD, and they are accurate.

    This is a single-sided, single-layered disc.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The audio often sounds flat and limited in range, which reflects poorly on the great music.

    Originally released theatrically in Dolby Stereo, there is one audio option, English Dolby Digital Stereo (224Kb/s).

    The dialogue quality is fine, but the audio sync slips out occasionally.

    The musical score is of course credited to Arthur Sullivan, and the original song lyrics to William Gilbert. As I noted earlier, many of the songs have new lyrics by Terry Britten and Trevor Farrant. There is also new incidental music by Peter Sullivan. The music is produced by Aussie pop music recording guru David Hirschfelder. Most of the songs keep the original flavour of Gilbert and Sullivan, but there are also a few 80s pop ballads thrown in as well.

    There is no surround presence nor LFE activity.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    There are no extras.


    A very simple and static menu, presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, with Dolby Digital stereo audio.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Pirate Movie is currently only available on VHS tape in Region 1.


   The Pirate Movie is a rather dated 80s musical, but a feel-good movie nonetheless. I would recommend it to Gilbert and Sullivan fans, as it remains a delightful musical romp.

    The video quality is very disappointing.

    The audio quality is very limited..

    There are no extras.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Brandon Robert Vogt (warning: bio hazard)
Thursday, May 22, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-535, using S-Video output
DisplayGrundig Elegance 82-2101 (82cm, 16x9). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationSony STR DE-545
SpeakersSony SS-V315 x5; Sony SA-WMS315 subwoofer

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Comments (Add)
worth it for the Modern Major General - gRANT (Read my bio, mmm... uncompressed surround audio)
Pirate movie comments - Anonymous
16:9 Enhanced, Dolby Digital 5.1 edition with audio commentary available from Amazon - UberAspie