Today I watched Mel Damski’s Yellowbeard (1983)
Graham Chapman is Yellowbeard the most villainous and violent pirate you’ve ever seen, but as the film opens and he secures his largest score yet, his first mate Mr. Moon betrays him. Yellowbeard is incarcerated for twenty years on charges of tax evasion but on the eve of his release he is informed that he is to be incarcerated for a further hundred and forty years. This is all a ploy though, Commander Clement of the British secret service knows that it will prompt him to break out and seek his buried treasure. But before he was incarcerated Yellowbeard fathered a son, now twenty years old, and his mother tattooed the treasure map on his head for no discernible reason. So his map headed son has to come along on the adventure that includes mutiny, Spanish despots, press gangs, a David Bowie cameo, and a handful of Monty Python alumni.
With a star studded cast of comedians, including such luminaries as Peter Boyle, Marty Feldman, Cheech and Chong, and Pythons Graham Champan, John Cleese, and Eric Idle, it is a marvel that this film is as unfunny as it is. Comedy is always wildly subjective but I think the forgettable nature of this film has been made clear by it’s lack of a reputation outside Cleese calling it one of the worst movies of all time, I guess he hasn’t seen many bad movies. There are funny moments in here, but for me, the film never reached the madcap chaos promised in the opening scenes. Yellowbeard is such an over the top character but this film feels more like a skit blown into a full movie in terms of the scope of the humour. There are also a few too many rape jokes, now I’m not one to be easily offended and I think even the worst content deserves to be parodied, but this is just banal, not even good jokes.
The rest of the film is frankly rather boring, like I said, it never captures the energy promised by it’s insane title character. In fact Yellowbeard drops out of large parts of the movie, becoming more of a background element lest the film actually get interesting. There is also an issue with the comedic stylings of the various talents not really meshing all that well, Peter Boyle is particularly out of place with his more deadpan delivery surrounded by the nutty performances of everyone else. In the end, this is just a forgettable film, only for the Graham Chapman completionists out there. 2/5