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Film / The Pirate Movie

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The Pirate Movie is an Australian-made 1982 musical comedy film loosely based on The Pirates of Penzance, directed by Ken Annakin. It stars Kristy McNichol, Christopher Atkins, and Ted Hamilton.

It is framed as a movie-length dream sequence by Mabel (McNichol), a modern teenager who inserts herself into the story as the hero's love interest, allowing the inclusion of pop music and a lot of 20th-century pop culture references alongside actual songs from the original operetta, as well as several moments of self-awareness by the characters.

This movie includes examples of:

  • All Just a Dream: The story unfolds as a dream in a present day heroine's head, with her in the role of Mabel. When she becomes aware that it's her dream, she's able to orchestrate a happy ending.
  • And You Were There: Mabel is visiting a pirate-themed seaside amusement park in the real world scenes, and all the characters who appear in the dream are analogues to people seen there. The pirates (including Frederic) are stunt performers, the Major-General is an ice cream vendor offering the flavor "Pirate's Gold", and Mabel's sisters are airheaded, conventionally pretty fellow tourists who stick her with all the grunt work.
  • Battering Ram: The pirates use a battering ram to... ring the doorbell. On their second charge, the butler opens the door and they charge through.
  • Bodybag Trick: After Frederic receives some bad news, he hides in a coffin to avoid breaking it to Mabel.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Mabel directly addresses the camera and audience several times. At the end, upon realizing she's dreaming, she actually stops the movie when the Pirate King threatens to have everyone killed; she refuses to play along and insists on a happy ending.
    Stanley: (to Mabel as the Major General Song starts) Not now, I'm on!
  • Brick Joke: Once scene features a swordfight where, after one fighter makes a perfect Diagonal Cut through a set of candles, the duelists stop to see whether the candles fall to pieces. The candles remain intact and the fight resumes. A few scenes later Mabel performs a musical number in the same room as the swordfight. After finishing her extended last note, she blows out the candle she's holding...and the candles in the room fall to pieces.
  • Camp Straight: Ted Hamilton's Pirate King dances all over the line of what would be considered campy, gay, manly, or straight; he can be imposing and powerful one minute and yelling a high-pitched scream the next. He also prominently wears a very puffy red vest. And a codpiece. Which squeaks when he honks it.
  • Disappearing Box: During a sword fight, Frederic traps the Pirate King in a coffin and runs several swords through it, only for the Pirate King to reappear behind him and the coffin, when reopened, to be empty. For an encore, the Pirate King makes a dove appear out of thin air.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Frederic. A lot.
  • Door Judo: On the pirates' second attempt to use a battering ram on the Major General's front door, the butler opens the door for them, leaving them to charge into the mansion. The pirates then carry the ram up a spiral staircase for no reason before dumping it on the second floor.
  • Double Entendre: Probably half of the Pirate King's dialogue.
  • Film the Hand: One of the policemen spots the camera and pushes it down when it is trying to film a group of police beating up a single pirate.
  • Flat "What": Frederic's reaction to being told of the contract's loophole.
  • Flynning: The big extended sword fight between Frederick and the Pirate King, of course, involves a lot of this, but as a nod to the originator, Ruth is nearby in the library reading a book and sees a full-page photo of Errol Flynn fighting someone with a sword.
  • Graceful Loser: In one of the weirdest examples, The Pirate King allows Mabel to give her story a Happy Ending, though he is slightly hesitant to being with Ruth.
  • Groin Attack: Several, either actual (see War Is Hell and Instant Soprano) or threatened.
    Frederic: (with the Pirate King's sword pointing between his legs) Nuts!
    Pirate King: Them too!
  • Inexplicably Awesome: The Pirate King is always a bit daffy, same as everyone else, but The Pirate Movie takes it to new levels; he has apparent superpowers like leaping up to the second story during a sword fight, slashing a statue straight in half with his sword, pointing his sword like a gun at some mugs to shatter them, escaping from a coffin run through with swords like a magic trick, and a booming sonic shout.
  • Instant Soprano: The enemy Chinese pirate says/sings "Spare me!" and the Pirate King says, "Ooh, an Irish Tenor, no less! We could use an Irish Tenor, lads!" He accidentally stabs the man in the crotch and the guy goes "yeeOOOWWW" in a very high-pitched voice. "Soprano! Even better."
  • Knight's Armor Hideout: Mabel hides in a suit of armor during the Pirates' final attack on the mansion. (It's also a bit of commentary on how difficult it is for Frederick to get to her.)
  • Meadow Run: When Mabel first sees Frederic on the beach. Somehow they end up riding horses on the beach moments later.
  • Mistaken for Gay: Mabel to Frederic at one point, albeit jokingly.
    Mabel: I mean, the way you and that Pirate King get around in those rather feminine pleated shirts and all that leather...
    Frederic: Mabel!
    Mabel: Hey, I'm not prejudiced. I mean, what does this country have a Navy for? Screw 'em if they can't take a joke!
    Frederic: You're weird.
  • Narrow Parody: The deliberately anachronistic jokes work through what was, in 1982, the past two decades or so of popular culture, but especially the turn of The '80s with nods to Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and The Pink Panther movies (Trail of the Pink Panther arrived in movie theaters just a few months after this film's release). Actually justified as the film is the Dream Sequence of a young woman of 1982 and thus is working from her frame of reference.
  • Nerd Glasses: The heroine first appears wearing an enormous pair of nerdy glasses as part of a generally unflattering look. She loses them when she's washed ashore and falls unconscious, and doesn't have them in the dream. Notably, Samuel producing and giving them to her during the climax is what causes her to realize she's dreaming in the first place.
  • Of Corsets Sexy: The Pirate Movie did wonders to bust Kristy McNichol's tomboy image, partly thanks to the wardrobe.
  • Or Are You Just Happy to See Me?: The Pirate Captain is asked: "Is that a knife in your pocket or are you just glad to see me?" It is a knife in his pocket, but he is also glad to see her.
  • Or Was It a Dream?: When Mabel wakes up in the real world, she is wearing the ring Frederic gave her and has her hair done-up as she did in her dream.
  • Pair the Spares: At the end, Mabel pauses the action, arbitrarily pairs up the pirates with her various sisters and the Pirate King with Ruth, then notices that two pirates are left over...and puts them in each others' arms too.
    • They even end up dancing together in the final big musical number. How's that for progressive.
  • Pie in the Face: During the brawl at the climax, a cart of pies is wheeled out and a character predicts a pie fight — turns out it's pizzas being thrown around instead.
  • Product Placement: McDonald's gets this early on — Mabel has to pick up lunch from there for all of her shallow "friends" and while she's busy getting it they decide to waylay Frederic's real-world analogue.
  • Roger Rabbit Effect: One song and dance number features animated sea creatures.
  • Rule of Three: The song "Happy Endings" plays three times in the final eight minutes of the movie, including the end credits.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Sophisticated as Hell: Mabel.
    Mabel: Hiding? My Frederic, hiding? It cannot be the lionheart trembles at the coming conflict. My love; a wimp!
  • Tiny Guy, Huge Girl: At the end, the shortest pirate is paired with Mabel's largest sister.
  • Triumphant Reprise: "Happy Endings", the finale of the Dream Sequence, is reprised with an even more uptempo rock beat in the real world when Mabel and Frederic's real world counterpart get married.
  • Two Words: Added Emphasis:
    Pirate King: I can explain this to you in two words: It's a Beach Party. And I am Frankie Avalon!
    Samuel: And I'm Annette Funicello!
  • Undercrank: The action speeds up, silent movie style, during some of the chase scenes (complete with appropriate music), when the policemen run away, and when Frederic first catches sight of the Major General's daughter and makes a beeline for the beach.
  • Walking Shirtless Scene: Frederic spends most of the movie naked from the waist up, or occasionally wearing a jacket but no shirt, even in situations where some kind of protection would be sensible (such as when he's underwater and wearing a diving helmet with no diving suit attached).
  • Walk on Water: Subverted. Frederic looks like he's walking on water, but he's actually walking in very shallow water... until he steps off a ledge and falls in.
  • Walk the Plank: Frederic is forced to do so when he leaves the pirate ship.
  • War Is Hell: Spoofed: Mabel says "War is Hell!" in a fourth-wall breaking after deciding to fight Frederic during the climactic battle and taking advantage of their mutual hesitancy to get the drop on him.
  • You Do Not Have to Say Anything: The lead policeman reads "Anything you say may be taken down..." to which all the Stanley daughters yell "Knickers!"