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Film / Yellowbeard

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Yellowbeard is a 1983 British comedic swashbuckler film directed by Mel Damski and starring Graham Chapman, along with Peter Cook, Bernard McKenna, David Sherlock, and Marty Feldman in his last film appearance. Supporting cast members include Peter Boyle, Cheech & Chong, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Madeline Kahn, Kenneth Mars, James Mason, Spike Milligan, Stacey Nelkin, Nigel Planer,note  Beryl Reid, Nigel Stock, Susannah York, and David Bowie as the shark.

In the 17th century, the pirate Yellowbeard was incarcerated for twenty years for tax evasion — apart from his years terrorizing the high seas. He survives the sentence without disclosing the whereabouts of his vast treasure (" spite of twenty years of rehabilitation. And torture."). The Royal Navy hatches a plot to increase his sentence by one hundred and forty years, knowing that he'll escape in a rage to set out for his treasure. This he does, recruiting a motley crew of companions. He left a map of the treasure in the chimney of his wife's pub, but she burned it — however, she also had it tattooed on their son's head. Things go wrong when his former shipmate-turned-traitor Bosun Moon's press gangs take over their ship. With the head of the Secret Service hot on their trail they eventually find the island, where a group of AWOL Spanish conquistadors have taken residence with their ill-gotten gains, and the battle for the treasure commences...

Yellowbeard contains examples of:

  • Advertised Extra: Beryl Reid gets prominent billing in the opening credits, but Lady Lambourn only appears in two brief scenes.
  • The Alcoholic: Lord Lambourn is scarcely seen without a bottle in hand.
  • Angst? What Angst?: Commented on In-Universe, as Troila is unconcerned about her father's brutal violent death, saying her father had odd ideas about death and he's happier in the afterlife. It doesn't hurt that Troila is an extreme Gold Digger and she's just happy to be with whomever inherited her father's wealth.
  • Arc Words: "Us Yellowbeards are never more dangerous than when we're dead!"
  • Aren't You Going to Ravish Me?: Betty is most indignant when Yellowbeard bursts into her bedroom and starts hacking a hole in the wall instead of raping her (or "giving her a cuddle", as she refers to it).
    Yellowbeard: I 'aven't got time for that now!
  • An Arm and a Leg: Moon loses his left hand when Yellowbeard slams the chest lid down on it. He later replaces it with a Hook Hand.
    Yellowbeard: 'ands off me treasure! (SLAM!)
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: The eponymous pirate has committed a long list of heinous crimes, but he was finally convicted for tax evasion.
  • Bad "Bad Acting": When El Nebuloso's fort is attacked by the pirates, he orders his forces to pretend to be defeated to lure the pirate leader to him. They accomplish this by collapsing as if shot whenever someone fires, regardless of whether the gun was pointed anywhere near them. (Unfortunately for some soldiers, Yellowbeard doesn't give them time to play dead.)
  • Bilingual Bonus: "Nebuloso" means hazy in Spanish. "Segundo" means second.
  • Black Comedy Rape: Betty and Yellowbeard's relationship seems to thrive on this, which is good because Yellowbeard loves rape.
    Betty: Do you remember before you were arrested we were having a cuddle?
    Yellowbeard: I was raping ya, if that's what you mean.
    Betty: Alright, sort of was half-cuddle, half-rape.
  • Blind People Wear Sunglasses: When Commander Clement first meets Harvey "Blind" Pew, Pew is wearing dark glasses. When Clement sees the glasses Pew is wearing, he immediately realizes that Pew is blind.
  • Bodybag Trick: Yellowbeard escapes from prison by hiding in a coffin.
  • Buxom Beauty Standard: Middle-aged Lady Lambourn's curtsy gives Yellowbeard a long look at her breasts, enticing him to ravish her in the shrubbery. She doesn't seem to mind, however.
  • Can't Get Away with Nuthin': Betty (Madeline Kahn) tells her son Dan (Martin Hewitt):
    "The last time I read a book, I was raped — let that be a lesson to you."
  • Captain Colorbeard: Yellowbeard's habit of putting fuses in his beard makes him an Expy of Blackbeard.
  • Cardboard Prison: It's implied that Yellowbeard could have left prison any time he wanted to, but he honorably served his jail time - and was insulted by the arbitrary lengthening of his sentence.
    Yellowbeard: They broke their sacred promise!
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder:
    • Apparently, every Yellowbeard betrays and kills their father. However, Death Is Cheap, too.
    • Moon has a nasty habit of betraying his captains; in the film, he betrays three (Yellowbeard, Hughes, Dan.)
  • Coin-on-a-String Trick: Subverted in that the idiot sidekick gives Pew all of his money back and then some, mocking "Hah!"
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Verdugo, El Nebuloso's torturer, has invented a torture chair that breaks every bone in the body. Naturally, Bad Boss El Nebuloso wants him to demonstrate it on himself.
    Verdugo: (after having been in the chair a LONG time) Oh, my head. And my foot and my back. Mon Dieu, it works!
  • Crosscast Role: Queen Anne is played by Peter Bull (whom most viewers would know from Dr. Strangelove, in which he played the Soviet ambassador).
  • Cut Himself Shaving: A bar fight with Blind Pew leaves the entire tavern littered with corpses.
    Clement: What happened?
    Betty: Plague!
    Clement: Plague?
    Betty: All sudden like! Lucky I was out.
    Clement: That man's got a sword in him!
    Betty: He fell on it.
  • Cutlass Between the Teeth: Moon has a knife clutched between his teeth when he clambers on board the Spanish galleon.
  • Daddy's Little Villain: Triola, daughter of the greedy religious leader El Nebuloso.
  • Death Is Dramatic: El Segundo, after telling his men their death acting was horrible, accidentally gets stabbed by Lambourn, and proceeds to ham it up as he dies (though not acting).
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Much of the film's humor. For example, the Captain tells his crew that women being on board a sailing ship is bad luck, and it's a scientific fact.
  • Disguised in Drag: Gilbert tails Dan, Lord Lambourn and Dr. Gilpin through Portsmouth disguised (somewhat unconvincingly) as a prostitute.
  • The Dung Ages: Literally, with a girl throwing shit in people's faces if they don't give her money. Lambourn gives her a little payback.
    Lady Lambourn: Stop that man pissin' on the 'edge!
  • Enemy Eats Your Lunch: Yellowbeard has a habit of snatching food off people he is passing and eating it.
  • Fake-Out Make-Out: When the protagonists walk through Portsmouth, two people kissing each other turn out to be the villains Mr. Moon and Gilbert, with Gilbert dressed as a woman.
  • Felony Misdemeanor: The punishment for chuckling at the Paper-Thin Disguise of Sweet Polly Oliver "Mr. Prostitute"? Having your foot nailed to the hull.
  • Fast-Roping: Near the end of the film Yellowbeard, his son Dan and Lord Lambourn swing through the windows on a British frigate to capture the captain and the ship.
  • Genius Bruiser: Yellowbeard may be Book Dumb (and maybe not even that), but he's fairly intelligent and clever.
  • Girls with Moustaches: "Mr. Prostitute" is obviously a woman wearing a false moustache.
  • A God Am I: El Nebuloso. He even points to himself when saying everyone must serve God.
  • Gold Digger: Triola, and Dan doesn't seem to care.
  • Gorn: Albeit of the over-the-top Monty Python's Flying Circus variety.
  • Handicapped Badass: Blind Pew's capable of taking out an entire tavern full of unsavory types, once he's had the shutters closed and the lights doused.
  • Hidden Depths: Lord Lambourn might be The Stoner and a bit of The Alcoholic, but he's been a fine Parental Substitute for Dan.
  • Historical In-Joke: Yellowbeard's "tax evasion" sentence is a reference to Al Capone.
  • Hollywood Acid: The torture chair in El Nebuloso's dungeon is surrounded by a moat of acid that instantaneously dissolves flesh and bone.
  • Hook Hand: Moon loses his left hand when Yellowbeard slams the lid of a treasure chest on it. He has it replaced with a hook.
  • Human Notepad: Dan, the son of Yellowbeard, has a treasure-map tattooed on his head.
  • Hypercompetent Sidekick: Queen Anne has a female advisor who makes all of her decisions, simply because Queen Anne is a complete idiot, thinking her admiral is a beekeeper.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Yellowbeard, at least when trying to get rid of maps.
    Yellowbeard: I'll eat it [Dan's head] before I let them have it! Wouldn't be the first head I've eaten!
  • Implausible Fencing Powers: Despite being blind, Pew is able to extinguish a candle flame with one precise strike of his Sword Cane.
  • Insistent Terminology: "Rape" seems to just mean "rough sex" in the film.
  • I Surrender, Suckers: El Nebuloso pretends to surrender and acts like he's going to free Dan from the torture device. Once he's close to Dan, he uses him as a hostage.
  • Justice by Other Legal Means: The narrator at the beginning, after giving a laundry list of the title character's atrocities, including tearing men's hearts out and swallowing them whole, and "Often forcing men to eat their own lips, he was eventually caught and imprisoned...for tax evasion."
  • Large Ham: Invoked by El Segundo, who chastises his men for making their deaths look fake by being too hammy. He immediately gets a mortal wound, and his real death is so hamtastic it makes Paul Reuben's death in Buffy the Vampire Slayer quiet and reserved in comparison. His men applaud his "acting".
  • Longer-Than-Life Sentence: The impetus of the story is the fact the Royal Navy wanted to increase his sentence of 140 years so that he escapes and recovers his treasure.
  • Made of Iron: Yellowbeard. He treats getting pounded on the back with a club as a tap on his shoulder.
  • The Mole: Gilbert is Captain Moon's associate who keeps an eye on Yellowbeard, trying to get him to admit the location of the treasure.
  • Mugged for Disguise: Mr. Moon knocks out the boatswain's mate leading a press gang, dons his uniform and takes his place.
  • The Mutiny: Having stacked the crew with his own band of cutthroats, Mr. Moon leads a mutiny against Captain Hughes and seizes control of the Lady Edith: setting Hughes and the other officers adrift in a longboat.
  • My Death Is Just the Beginning: "Us Yellowbeards are never more dangerous than when we're dead!"
  • Not-So-Harmless Villain: Dan, and Yellowbeard can't be more pleased when Dan "betrays" him.
  • Papa Wolf:
    • Yellowbeard; As much as he dislikes Dan for not being a black-hearted pirate like him, he always comes to Dan's aid when his son needs him the most. Indeed, trying to kill Dan usually ends in death at Yellowbeard's hands, just ask Mr. Crisp and El Nebuloso.
    • Lord Lambourn is another example when he delivered some sweet karma to a bratty beggar girl who threw crap in Dan's face.
      Lambourn: (after kicking the girl into a pile of shit) A good big one will always beat a rotten little one.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise:
    Dr. Gilpin: And that's Dr. Anthrax.
    Betty: That's Yellowbeard.
    Yellowbeard: I'm in disguise, you stupid tart!
    • Also, Mr. Prostitute.
    • Lampshaded in one scene.
      Captain Hughes: What's that?
      Mr. Crisp: Oh, that's my box, sir.
      Captain Hughes: No, carrying your box.
      Mr. Crisp: Oh, Cabin Boy Smith, sir.
      Captain Hughes: Smith has tits.
      Mr. Crisp: He's been a bit ill, sir.
      Captain Hughes: Get her off!
    • During The Mutiny scene, Moon is calling for who should become captain. Secretly, he wants Dan to be captain because he thinks Dan knows where the treasure is hidden. So, he has Gilbert step forward to suggest Dan, Gilbert then puts on a different hat and steps around one pirate to suggest Dan again, and again.
  • Parental Substitute: Lord Lambourn helped Betty raise Dan, and given what a good-hearted person Dan is along with Dan's own words, Lambourn was quite a good parental figure for him.
  • Pink Elephants: Lord Lambourn is such an alcoholic that he is willing to dismiss the strange things he happens to see as alcohol-induced hallucinations.
  • Pirate: Yellowbeard is the most feared pirated to have ever sailed the seas.
  • Punch! Punch! Punch! Uh Oh...:
    • Yellowbeard is in a British prison and one of the guards attempts to discipline him by beating him with a stout wooden rod. Yellowbeard doesn't notice.
    • Dan smashes a barrel over Mr. Crisp's head. Mr. Crisp doesn't notice.
  • Reading the Stage Directions Out Loud: Flunkie announces Commander Clement at Queen Anne's court by reading from the guest list:
    "Commander of Her Majesty's Secret Service! Do not read this part out loud!"
  • Second-Face Smoke: Mr. Pew has smoke blown in his face, but he coughs in an extremely dignified way twice before continuing as before.
  • Self-Punishment Over Failure: When El Segundo makes a mistake when talking to his Bad Boss El Nebuloso, he begins hitting his head against an object in the hope that El Nebuloso won't kill him. El Nebuloso then asks him what he's doing.
  • Sex God: Even if it is rape, Yellowbeard is almost certainly this when you consider none of the various women he rapes get mad at him for it. Plus if the sounds they make are any indication, they really seem to enjoy it. Indeed, Betty enjoyed the first time he raped her so much that when Yellowbeard came into her room to get his treasure map, she was disappointed when he says he doesn't have time for that now.
  • Shiny New Australia: Betty wants to buy Denmark with her share of the treasure.
  • Shout-Out: To Treasure Island. The good-hearted young man whose mother runs a tavern taking a noble and a doctor to search for buried treasure on a ship that undergoes a mutiny from the former crewmen of the pirate captain who buried the aforesaid treasure might be a coincidence, if not for the presence of Handicapped Badass Blind Pew.
  • Stiff Upper Lip: A chunk of the humor comes from the contrast between nobility and the pirates. When Yellowbeard roughly grabs very distinguished Lady Lambourne to have sex in shrubbery, she manages to say, "Excuse me, I seem to have an appointment with this gentleman!"
  • Smoking Hot Sex: When Mr. Crisp enters Captain Hughes' cabin, he finds the captain and Mr. Prostitute (very obviously a woman disguised as a man) sprawled on the captain's bed in a state of undress. Mr. Prostitute is languidly smoking a cigar.
  • So Proud of You: Yellowbeard does finally express pride and stresses that Dan is his son... when Dan stabs Yellowbeard "as I stabbed my father before me!" Of course, as a Yellowbeard is never more dangerous than when they're dead, this doesn't slow anyone down.
  • The Stoner: Lord Lambourn. In keeping with the times, he's addicted to snuff.
  • Super-Senses: Blind Pew's "acute 'earing" lets him tell what kind of clothes a man was wearing.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial:
    Betty: You're all going after the treasure!
    The men: No!
    Lord Lambourn: Uh, botanical...
    Yellowbeard: Killing plants!
  • Sweet Polly Oliver: Spoofed. One of the ship's officers is named "Mr. Prostitute" and is an obvious woman with a fake mustache.
  • Sword Cane: Blind Pew's white stick conceals a sword blade that he wields with devastating efficiency.
  • Tap on the Head: While Dan, Lord Lambourn and Dr. Gilpin are in Portsmouth, three members of a press gang knock them on the head with clubs and render them unconscious so they can be kidnapped.
  • A Taste of the Lash: Parodied, of course. The prison guard whips Yellowbeard to get his attention - Yellowbeard treats it like the guard was tapping him on the shoulder.
  • Took a Level in Badass
    • Dan finally learns what it means to be a Yellowbeard. "Us Yellowbeards are never more dangerous than when we're dead!"
    • Even foppish stoner Lord Lambourn gets off a good, "Arrrrrrrrrrrr."
  • Treasure Map: On Dan's head. Yellowbeard wants to chop it off, but Dan convinces him to keep him alive and help find the treasure.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Yellowbeard grabbing Lady Lambourne and ravishing her in the bushes gets a mild reaction from her husband and her friend.
    Tarbuck: He seems to have taken quite a shine to Lady L.
    Lambourne: Yes. Not many people do, you know. But when they do, they do. And when she does, she does!
  • Unwilling Suspension: Following The Mutiny lead by Mr. Moon, Captain Hughes has a rope wrapped around his legs and is hoist into the rigging.
  • Upper-Class Twit: Lord Lambourn
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: Dan and Yellowbeard, oh so much.
    Yellowbeard: Oh, been out raping, lad? (sees Troila) Nice work lad.
    Dan: No, I haven't raped her!
    Yellowbeard: (disappointed) No, you wouldn't have you poncy little git! You're not the prawn of my loins, your mother's a bloody liar! (grins) That's what I liked about her!