The Pirates of Penzance
Release Year: 1983
Length: 1 hour 52 mins
Genre: Comic Opera
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Subtitles: English SDH
Release Date: September 14, 2010
Starring: Kevin Kline, Angela Lansbury, Linda Ronstadt, George Rose and Rex Smith
Produced by: Joseph Papp
Adapted from the Opera by Arthur Sullivan and W.S. Gilbert
Written and Directed by Wilford Leach
The Pirates of Penzance is a well-regarded but seldom-seen cinema adaptation of the early 80s Joe Papp production of Gilbert & Sullivan’s classic comic opera. Fans of Gilbert & Sullivan will be happy to finally have a copy of this film on DVD, and in anamorphic widescreen to boot. The movie is an appropriately stage-bound presentation of the classic songs and routines, with spirited performances all around, particularly Kevin Kline in the lead role, as well as George Rose as the very model of a modern Major General and Linda Ronstadt at a time when she can be seen to transition from rock and roll to something more traditional.
The film has finally been released on DVD as of yesterday, just in time for the annual “International Talk Like a Pirate Day”, which will be inflicted on this coming Sunday, the 19th of September. The DVD holds the anamorphic transfer of the the movie, along with a simple 2.0 sound mix, and a black and white trailer for the film.
VIDEO QUALITY 3/5
The Pirates of Penzance is presented in a 2.35:1 Anamorphic transfer that shows a wide range of colors as the movie unfolds over the various sets. There are places where the print shows some signs of distress, but I think it’s safe to say that this is the best this film has ever looked on home video. Fans who have had to watch pan & scan transfers of this film can now see the full breadth of the stage and the true shape of the various musical numbers.
AUDIO QUALITY 3/5
The Pirates of Penzance is presented in an English 2.0 mix that essentially gives you the voices and music as clearly as possible. Given the material here, that’s completely appropriate. One does not listen to a Gilbert & Sullivan piece to focus on the background atmosphere or the subwoofer...
SPECIAL FEATURES 1/5
The Pirates of Penzance comes with only a single special feature, the theatrical trailer.
Theatrical Trailer (1:18, Non-Anamorphic, Black and White) – A theatrical trailer for the film is included here, albeit in non-anamorphic format, and in black and white. I’ve been trying to read up on this to see if the actual trailer seen in theaters was in fact black and white, or if this is just the only copy anyone could find. But it’s pretty curious to see…
Subtitles are available in English, which is a big help if you want to sing along (as I did to the Major General’s song…). A standard chapter menu is included for quick reference.
IN THE END...
The Pirates of Penzance will be a welcome release for fans of Gilbert & Sullivan, not to mention fans of Kevin Kline, Linda Ronstadt and Angela Lansbury. For viewers who have never seen anything by Gilbert & Sullivan, I’d say it’s a pretty good place to start.
September 15, 2010.