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Film / Yellowbeard

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Yellowbeard is a 1983 comedy film starring Graham Chapman, along with Peter Cook, Bernard McKenna and David Sherlock. It was directed by Mel Damski, and was Marty Feldman's last film appearance. Other well known stars are Peter Boyle, Cheech and Chong, Eric Idle, John Cleese, Madeline Kahn, Kenneth Mars, James Mason, Spike Milligan, Nigel Planer note  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:

  • Arc Words: "Us Yellowbeards are never more dangerous than when we're dead!"
  • The Alcoholic: Lord Lambourn is scarcely seen without a bottle in hand
  • 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.)
  • 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 havin a cuddle?
    Yellowbeard: I was raping ya, if that's what you mean.
    Betty: Alright, sort of was half-cuddle, half-rape.
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  • Buxom Is Better: 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!
  • Cash Lure
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Apparently, every Yellowbeard betrays and kills their father. However, Death Is Cheap, too.
  • Coin-on-a-String Trick: Subverted in that the idiot sidekick gives Pew all of his money back and then some, mocking "Hah!"
  • 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.
  • Daddy's Little Villain: Triola, daughter of the greedy religious leader El Nebuloso.
  • 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.
  • Everything's Even Worse with Sharks: Played with when Betty is taken captive by the Royal Navy and pumped for information offscreen. When she's ready to talk, she says, "I think it was that shark that jogged my memory." "The Shark" is the handsome sailor (David Bowie) who brings her into the office, and who has a shark's fin strapped to his back; he "jogged her memory" via sex.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 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.
  • Human Notepad: Dan, the son of Yellowbeard, has a treasure-map tattooed on his head.
  • I Am A Humanitarian: Yellowbeard, at least when trying to get rid of maps.
  • 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."
  • 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.
  • Mugged for Disguise: Mr. Moon knocks out the boatswain's mate leading a press gang, dons his uniform and takes his place.
  • 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.
  • 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!
  • 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
  • Parental Substitute: Lord Lambourn helped Betty raise Dan, and given what a good-hearted person Dan is along with with Dan's own words, Lambourn was quite a good parental figure for 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.
  • 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.
  • Seadog Beard
  • Second Face Smoke: Mr. Pew has smoke blown in his face, but he coughs in an extremely dignified way twice before continuing as before.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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
  • 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!


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