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Yellowbeard (Blu-ray Review)

YellowbeardYellowbeard has plenty of Monty Python members in it, but its not of their official canon of films.  This was some sort of Graham Chapman passion project that he spent many scripts and years trying to get funding.  The late The Who drummer Keith Moon wound up being that benefactor and was supposed to be the lead in the film until his health went south.  Other such as Sting and Adam Ant were supposed to play the role at one point, but it wound up being played by Chapman himself in the end.  Other members of Monty Python such as John Cleese and Eric Idle have roles in the film and both have claimed it as one of the very worst (If not THE worst) films they’ve ever taken part in.  So, of course that means its ripe for going back and analyzing in a new Blu-ray release from Olive Films.

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Film 

The pirate Yellowbeard is incarcerated for 20 years for tax evasion. He survives the sentence but has not disclosed the whereabouts of his vast treasure. The Royal Navy hatches a plot to increase his sentence by 140 years, knowing that he will escape to set out for his treasure. He does so, recruiting a motley crew of companions. He had left a map of the treasure in the chimney of his wife’s pub, but she burned it. She then tells Yellowbeard that she had the map tattooed on their son’s head. Things go wrong when his traitorous former bosun Mr. Moon takes over the ship. With the Head of the British Secret Service (Idle) hot on their trail, they eventually find the island, where the terrible despot “El Nebuloso” and his majordomo “El Segundo” have taken residence with the treasure, and the battle for the prize commences.

Please note that while this film is PG, its a PG in a time where there was no PG-13.  It would be classified as a very hard PG.  There’s nudity here, cursing, plenty of sexuality and talks/jokes regarding rape.  I always find it funny when going to back to these after glancing at the rating and my eyes popping at how crazy it is to be rated that.  One of my favorite films, Top Secret! is like that where it contains a device in the film call the “Anal Intruder”.  And who could forget James Franciscus graphic demise of being shot square in the head with blood splatter in the G-rated Beneath The Planet of the Apes.  Today, Yellowbeard might have just enough to possibly be considered for an R.

Is this film the worst film ever as the surviving Pythons might have you believe?  Not quite.  Overall, its not a very good film and it can drag.  However, the film does have bits and spots of humor.  Some moments even great.  You’ll find yourself chuckling at some jokes and one-liners throughout.   And, in terms of the pirate comedy genre, we really don’t have much so it probably gets a higher ranking in that department.

The cast of this film has plenty of fun intended.  It feels like Life Of Brian meets Young Frankenstein.  In addition to the three Monty Python members in the cast (Chapman, Cleese, Idle) you get some Mel Brooks players.  Peter Boyle, Madeline Kahn and Marty Feldman join the Python Boys for this romp.  You also get a cameo appearance from Cheech and Chong.  Its the cast that really keeps this movie afloat and is the reason for a lot of the highlights in the film.  If you described the film to someone they’d probably get pretty excited and want to see it with high expectations.  And maybe that’s what ultimately happened with this film during the time when it was released.

As a fan of Monty Python and Mel Brooks, I just really couldn’t sit and hate on Yellowbeard.  While I can recognize the overall film isn’t very good, I still think it does have some merit.  Watching some of the best comedic actors get together and do their thing in a relatively short film is solid enough and had me smiling enough.  There’s some fun looking back at something like Yellowbeard that may not have been there back in the day and with many years removed, hindsight may be a little brighter.

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Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1o80p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Clarity/Detail:  For what it is, Yellowbeard sports a decent looking image.  The source material and nature of the film itself doesn’t have a promising print but this looks real nice.  Detail on all of the uniforms and wigs is pretty impressive in itself.  Surface textures on cannons, brass and wood all look really detail with nicks, smudges, chips and the like.  Overall, this looks pretty solid with minimal compression issues.

Depth:  The film does a solid job with depth.  Character movement is very smooth and there is a nice loose feeling and good distance work in each environment.

Black Levels: Blacks are solid and hit or miss hid detail.  There is some good shading on display  and no real harm from crushing.

Color Reproduction:  Colors look natural and pretty solid.  There’s a decent palette.  Blues stick out (maybe because they’re used a lot), don’t jump out and pop but are pretty bold.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are warm and consistent.  Close ups feature wrinkles, cuts, scratches, stubble and beads of sweat.  Medium shots look impressive too.

Noise/Artifacts:  There is a nice layer of grain and some dirt/specs throughout.

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Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 2.0 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: N/A

Dynamics:  The audio track is one that does the trick.  Everything sounds pretty loose.  Sword whooshes, cannon fire, clanging and shots all sound decent (A little dated) and distinct.  The score wells nicely through this 2.0 mix.  Ambiance while on the boat is nicely woven in to the mix as well.  Splashes and the like sound natural and clean.

Low Frequency Extension:  N/A

Surround Sound Presentation:  N/A

Dialogue Reproduction:  Dialogue is clear and clean.  There are some analog sounding moments (likely from source ADR), but its really good.

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Extras 

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2:59)

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Summary 

I’m not going to argue Yellowbeard is a great film or anything, but its got some really funny moments bolstered by a cast of comedic action legends.  I feel like if you watch it you’re going to laugh at a couple things here and there throughout or be charmed by a performer or two.  Olive Films give the movie a nice little presentation here, but no extras to further the experience and look back upon it.  For fans, I think the movie hitting the format is good enough.  It may be a bit pricey for what it is and no extras, but if the movie is worth it to you then price shouldn’t be a bother.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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