June 07, 2007

Gratuitous Llama Netflix Movie Reviews


The Pirates of Penzance (1982)

The vogue in Gilbert & Sullivan these days seems to be to camp up performances of their operattas as much as possible, the better to show that we're all in the know about how silly they really are. To this end, I've seen all kinds of gratuitous, and indeed abusive hamming, mugging, slapstick and ad-libbing.

As you might imagine, I think this practice is abominable. Messrs. Gilbert and Sullivan were quite witty enough with their dialogue and music, thank you very much. We don't actually need a Pirate King doing Elvis impersonations to get a laugh out of their material. Which is why I generally enjoyed this particular production, done for the Beeb in the early 80's as part of a series. It doesn't mess about with trying to camp things up, but instead (for the most part) plays it straight.

Unfortunately, the production has some problems. The pirate gang are uniformely weak and Peter Allen, as the Pirate King, seems totally out of his depth. (He says in the accompanying documentary that this was his first go at G&S, and it plainly shows.) The other major issue is that Alexander Oliver, who plays the 21 year old Frederic, is way too old for the part. He comes off looking like Peter Boyle playing Major Yeats, and at times appears equally befuddled and distant.

On the other hand, Keith Michell is very good as Major General Stanley and Gillian Knight is an outstanding Ruth. Janis Kelly does pretty well as Mabel. And the choruses of sisters and policemen are quite good.

Overall, the music was pretty good as well, although the opening overture was heavily curtailed to fit the credits. Grrrrrr.......

Robbo's Recommendation: I'd give this production 3 1/2 Yips! out of five. Pleasant enough to watch once, but I don't feel any real desire to buy the DVD. (On the other hand, I will check out other G&S productions from this series at Netflix.)

Now if you're looking for a really good recording of Pirates, I can't recommend highly enough the old D'Oyle Carte production with Isidore Godfrey and the Royal Philharmonic. The voice acting is just terrific, as is the music. Gilbert & Sullivan the way it ought to be done.


The Emperor's New Clothes (2001)

With the help of a peasant body-double, Napoleon sneaks away from his exile on St. Helena in a plot to return to Paris and re-establish his empire. Things go amiss and he winds up in the city as an unknown commoner, whereupon he learns to stop chasing crowns and instead to start chasing....his heart. Or sumfin'.

I picked this movie out mostly because I always enjoy Ian Holm, and specifically because I wanted to compare his turn as Boney here with his rendition of the man in Time Bandits years ago. Well, that novelty lasted for a bit, but alas it wasn't enough to keep my interest, and indeed I dozed off at right about the point where the Corsican Tyrant, in his new life, shows his organizational brilliance by generalling the sale of a cartlode of melons belonging to Nicole 'Pumpkin' Truchaut (played by Iben Hjejle), the plucky young Parisian widow who's just trying to make ends meet. I asume that he eventually finds love with her, but I can't give out any spoilers here because, as I say, I slept through the end of the movie.

Robbo's Recommendation: Incomplete data, so no Yips! What I did see - the subterfuge and escape - was entertaining enough. On the other hand, I don't feel any great need to rerun the thing to find out how it ends, as I strongly suspect that the rest of the movie is nothing but chick-flick.

Posted by Robert at June 7, 2007 01:29 PM | TrackBack

Hmmm. I was checking my tape cover to see if I had the same series and noticed that three out of five have first names as last names.

I got the full set as a promo many moons ago and agree that they are pleasant enough to watch, but not worth purchasing.

Posted by: Uncle Pinky at June 7, 2007 04:45 PM

So it's not just the Durham Savoyards in N.C. who are following this abominable trend of "Campy" G&S productions. The last two shows have been horrendously staged (Patience and HMS Pinafore). Pinafore this spring looked like something out of the touring company of Hairspray.

Posted by: Attmay at June 11, 2007 09:52 PM