Retrospective: Avast!

When pondering this month’s Retrospective, I was awash with ideas. But the combination of my daughter’s desired birthday party theme (pirate princess) and the celebration earlier this week of the age old family holiday, Talk Like A Pirate Day gave Pirates the edge. Drink up me hardies, yo ho.


  • Treasure Island–Do yourself a favor and read Robert Louis Stevenson’s story instead of watching one of the gazillion film versions. It really is better. Even than the Muppets. Stevenson grasped the key to making pirates early on: dubious but charismatic. Jack Sparrow should send him a muffin basket.
  • Atlas Shrugged–Who says a pirate can’t exist in a dystopian society? Certainly not Ayn Rand. Ragnar Danneskjöld represents how capitalism can be manipulated.
  • The Sea Hawk–Rafeal Sabitini wrote a number of pirate stories and, outside of Stevenson, is one of the most highly filmed pirate writers. Nothing like some Barbary pirates to feed your vendetta against your traitorous brother.
  • The Island–It might be surprising news that Peter Benchley did write something other than Jaws. This story takes the pirate theme into a more modern setting and questions the role of free will.
  • Quicksilver–How to describe Neal Stephenson’s tome? Historical, fantasy, sci-fi, frame story, romance, picaresque, multi-point of view narrative with pirates and Isaac Newton. That’s a start.


  • Captain Blood–Errol Flynn was a last minute addition to the cast of this high seas adventure and a fortunate one at that. With Basil Rathbone and Olivia de Havilland, it’s a great cast on the brink of glory. Yes, it’s old. But it holds up even without all the effects.
  • The Princess and The Pirate–I remember watching this Bob Hope comedy frequently as a kid. The comedy is silly, but fun and the climax of the film has a Shakespearean flare.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl–Back before the sequels, plot holes, and realization that Orlando Bloom cannot play contemporary characters, Disney did something really weird: they based a movie on a theme park ride centered around the guy who played Edward Scissorhands. There in lies the brilliance. The story is  interesting, the effects are fab (I especially love the pirates ‘taking a walk’ on the bottom on the ocean), and there are fun little references to the ride. However, the guts of this film exist within Johnny Depp. Looking past all his mannerisms and much talked about inspirations, Depp, like castmate Geoffrey Rush, seems to be having a whale of a good time. It’s his pirate party and we’re all invited.
  • The Black Swan–No, not that one. The one with Maureen O’Hara, Henry Morgan, and Tyrone Powers. Less crazy, more swashbuckling.
  • The Princess Bride–When I was a kid, I didn’t realize this movie was a comedy. I just thought it was a really good movie. Which it is. It also happens to be hilarious. And if the Dread Pirate Roberts doesn’t deserve a slot on this list, no one does.

What about you, mateys? What shivers your timbers?


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