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4.6 out of 5 stars
The Pirates of Penzance
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167 of 176 people found the following review helpful
on March 24, 1999
Format: VHS TapeVerified Purchase
Unlike a previous reviewer, I am a long-time Gilbert and Sullivan lover who loved this movie--I first saw it some 15 years ago, and I waited for many years for it to come out on video. Needless to say, when I finally bought a VCR, I bought this as soon as I could find it.
The three key roles in Pirates are the Major General, the Pirate King, and the Sergeant of Police. All are well cast here. Tony Azito has a bit less vocal heft than a true Savoyard would like in the Police Sergeant's role, but he is superb at the physical comedy the role demands. George Rose is a superb Major General (that's, in Anna Russell's immortal phrase, "the little man who prances around and sings the patter song.") Best of all, Kevin Kline turns in a terrific performance as the Pirate King, showing once again what a wonderfully versatile actor he is.
Of the rest of the cast, Linda Rondstadt and Rex Smith, as the young lovers, are good. As Mabel, Rondstadt's job is primarily to sing with gusto, which she certainly does. G&S purists may be annoyed by Smith's casting as Frederic, since he does not have the pure tenor voice the role calls for, but he acquits himself well in the comic moments.
All in all, this is a movie to be enjoyed over and over. And for any of you out there who don't like it, a suitable penalty has been prepared. Something with boiling oil in it, I fancy. Yes, boiling oil or molten lead.
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86 of 94 people found the following review helpful
on April 10, 2002
Format: VHS Tape
I can't add to much to what others have already said. Too many G&S traditionalists have lost sight of what great fun this piece can be, but this production gets it right! Like others, I'd single out Kevin Klein, Linda Rondstadt, and Tony Azito for special praise. George Rose, a G&S veteran, is also excellent. Other characters are equally good - and especially Mabel's sisters. Although most of the principles are the same as in the Broadway production, one positive move was adding Angela Lansbury to play Ruth
So, what's not perfect? I have the CD of the Broadway production and it's obvious this video was edited to fit a broadcast time slot. The additions at the end are funny, but it's disappointing that they cut one verse of the Major General's song and several of the prettiest and/or more amusing bits by Mabel and her sisters. I'm even disappointed that they didn't include "Sorry Her Lot", which isn't really from PofP, but is on the Broadway CD and works perfectly in context. I understand why they did it, but I don't have to like it.
Also, as almost everyone else has said, WHERE'S THE DVD?!? I'm a little better off than most since I have it on a LaserDisc, but a DVD would be more convenient (and besides, I could play it on my computer while I'm working).
The bottom line... My list of favorite films has remained fairly stable for at least the past decade. Every so often a new film or video comes along to join the top 10, and a few inevitably drop off. However, I can't imagine this production ever droping out of even my top 5.
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71 of 78 people found the following review helpful
on June 30, 2000
Format: VHS Tape
I first saw this when Rex Smith was a heart throb. In fact, if it were not for Rex and Linda being in this show, I would not have watched it at all because I was a fan of theirs. Thanks to them, I became introduced to a whole new world: the outrageous world of Gilbert and Sullivan.
Linda amazes me that she can hit that high note and her innocent facial expressions are to die for!
I still to this day love Rex Smiths voice in this movie, and it takes me back to the good old days of innocent fandom. Rex Smith updated this movie enough to make it live in the present, even though it was set in the past. He was fresh, innocent and I loved his facial expressions as well!
Kevin Kline unexpectedly took my breath away. (What a MAN.. at least in this movie)He can kidnap me any day as long as he stays in THIS character role!
I found myself amazed at Tony Azito's agility which was hilarious and George Rose was fabulous as well. I found myself trying to sing as fast as he could. He almost challenges you to keep up with him and he also wears you out listening to him! A real delight!
Angela breaks my heart.. because she is SO GOOD! Her charactor is so real that I found myself feeling what her character felt. That is great acting!
Ok.. so some people don't like Rex (although why? I don't know..), but let me tell you this: If Rex had not been in the lead, many young people of MY day would not have been introduced to Gilbert and Sullivan. That would be the biggest shame of all.
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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on November 28, 2010
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
This version of Pirates of Penzance has always been rather amazing. Rex Smith's strong tenor vocals, Lind Ronstadt's surprisingly stunning soprano and Kevin Kline's aerobatic, physical, and vocal antics. It's just ridiculously silly, and the tiny touches that each actor adds,(which could only be captured by a camera and by viewing multiple times) makes this version of the operetta, just a festival of fun.
Not unlike Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean, Kevin Kline as the Pirate King, is a scene stealer. If you just spend the whole film watching his unscripted mannerisms with his face, his movement and his blocking, he is really as funny as anything else that was written into the script. He supports any dull
moments in the play. If you are losing interest at any time(which I would doubt)
just look to Kevin and he's hamming it up for the camera in every scene. I'd say he's just a master of shenanigans and for a piece like this, it's priceless.

I have been waiting for a DVD version of this to show up since I heard about DVD's and finally, someone heard our pleas and really did this DVD up right.
In WIDE-SCREEN, FINALLY, the film seems virtually brand new. There was so much
chopped off in the VHS presentation, that seeing it now on DVD, I hardly recognize it. It's Just like seeing for the first time. And the enhancement of the print is STUNNING. Now we can actually see the film the way it was intended. The colors are dazzling; the pastels on the beautiful sets, combined with the vibrant costuming and full scope of the lens, makes this DVD version just lovely to look at.
Additionally, the enhanced and obviously remastered soundtrack is a JOY!
Watching the VHS tape for years, there were tons of lyrics I never understood.
This DVD has sound so clear and crisp and intense, that I finally understood every-single-word! The HARMONY is also now, actually audible! Previously, the songs on the VHS were "fun" and cute, but now, with the new DVD audio, they are just wonderful to hear! There is more than 6 part harmony in places, where on the VHS tape, it sounded as if it was only two.

It was really worth the wait for this DVD,especially
with as much effort as was put into the film's restoration.
For anyone who wants to see Gilbert and Sullivan done well,
this DVD is a great way to start! It's worth every penny!
It is the very model of a modern movie musical!
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on September 20, 2010
Format: DVD
A generally enjoyable production of "Pirates", this famous early 80's Broadway production introduced many people to Gilbert and Sullivan, and also provided Linda Ronstadt with a new career path into the world of light opera and popular standards. Teen-idol-of-the-moment Rex Smith, shown here at the peak of his fame, makes an excellent Frederick, managing to project virile masculinity while wearing very revealing tights. Kevin Kline is the pirate king, and brings his amusing parody of manliness that he has often used in subsequent films. Angela Lansbury is the long-suffering Ruth, shown here before her "Murder She Wrote" days.

Supporting cast is good, and includes some British stage veterans of other G&S productions. One musical number is added (from Ruddigore), and the orchestrations do have a distinctive early-80's feel, including synths and a general speeding up of tempos. Purists scoffed, and yet this is the "Pirates" that most casual fans know and love.

DVD is decent quality, presented in anamorphic widescreen with a 2.0 stereo soundtrack. Not quite HD level, but a good presentation of one of the more enjoyable operas for those who don't like opera.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on April 15, 2000
Format: VHS TapeVerified Purchase
This film version of director Wilford Leach's famous New York Shakespeare Festival production of PIRATES is sensationally good. Without sacrificing any G&S words or music (indeed, several favorite songs are reprised), this re-orchestration capitalizes on Gilbert's tongue-in-cheek spoofing of Englishness. The all-star cast--George Rose, Angela Lansbury, Kevin Kline, Linda Ronstadt, Rex Smith, and the amazingly rubber-limbed Tony Azito (as the Sergeant of Police)--create absolutely wonderful characters and fresh inventive business to make this not just great G&S, but one of the funniest comedies available on video. If there is any flaw it is when actors milk gags just a tad too much. But where else can you see Elvis and singing flowers in opera? For the diehard G&S fan, we even get a bit of HMS PINAFORE thrown in. From the first appearance of the pirates aboard a most handsome ship, the Tarantula (cleverly named for the repeated Police chorus lyric "Taran-Tara") to their final transformation into bowler-hatted, brolly-toting "lords," these PIRATES strike a solid hit!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on November 17, 2004
Format: VHS Tape
I grew up watching musicals and operettas (to which I am forever in my parents' debt), and among my favorites has always been Pirates. This production is wonderful beyond words. The comedic and vocal talents of Kevin Kline, Angela Lansbury, Rex Smith, and Linda Ronstadt shine, as well as the equally talented, but less focused on, George Rose and Tony Azito. The lyrics are amazingly witty (as I have gained appreciation for in my later years) and the execution of this play is simply masterful. I would highly recommend this movie for anybody looking for a clever, upbeat film and a wonderful musical performance, regardless of age. I only hope they come out with a soundtrack so I don't have to watch the movie EVERY time I want to hear the songs!
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon April 23, 2005
Format: VHS TapeVerified Purchase
This is a wonderful performance of a favorite Gilbert & Sullivan musical.

You will never hear a more gorgeous voiced Frederick than that of Rex Smith.

Prepare to be dazzled by the athletic dancing and strutting of Kevine Kline as the Pirate King.

Linda Ronstadt's singing is beauttiful, though at times she seems to garble some of the words a bit.

Angela Lansbury is charming as nursemaid "Little Ruth." I didn't realize she could dance a bit as well.

One recommendation: you might also try the DVD version of Pirates, which features Patricia Routledge as Ruth. It is performed live in Central Park, and has a spontaneity that is also a lot of fun.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on March 29, 2001
Format: VHS Tape
This movie was my introduction to Gilbert and Sullivan when I was a teenager, and while I was already enamoured of musicals at that point I think it's probably one of the best ways that I could've discovered the creations of G&S.
No, it's not "classic" or "official" G&S, but heaven forbid that anybody should have FUN with a production, eh? I heartily applaud the direction that this movie goes, and absolutely love every minute of it. Kevin Kline is a sublime Pirate King, no matter that he isn't a professional vocalist. Angela Lounsberry is a wonderful Ruth, perfect in character - so who cares if her voice is a little crackly, as it fits the character anyhow? The rest of the cast is great, too... Tony Azito dancing practically boneless as the Police Sergeant was a particular favorite.
If you want to have fun, enjoy musicals and light opera, and aren't tied to the "traditional," get yourself a copy of this movie!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on January 23, 2006
Format: VHS TapeVerified Purchase
Gilbert & Sullivan is an acquired taste, and those who come with too high a barrier of scorn and skepticism might miss the hilarity. The best G&S productions honor the glorious music, and play the characters with earnest conviction, especially when far far over the top. Kevin Kline as the Pirate King is a splendid example, fierce but gullible. Linda Ronstadt's Mabel is another dimension, virginal and sweet with entire self-confidence, a maidenly readiness for action. I'll buy this one (and buy it again if it does come out on DVD, please!) for some of the added bits - the Pirate King's shocked objection when the Pirate King tune is used for the Major-General, and especially for the insertion of the stolen patter song ("we'll sing this song from 'Ruddygore,' it really doesn't matter matter matter").
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