TBT: Cutthroat Island (1995)

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This film is probably more appropriate for Snark Week, but if you’re looking for a strong female character in a historical(ish) movie, you could do worse than Cutthroat Island (1995) where Geena Davis as Morgan Adams basically does all the usual swashbuckling done by men in pirate flicks. The film’s byline on the promotional poster reads “From the director of Die Hard and Cliffhanger” so you know what you’re getting into — lots of shit getting blown up. But hey! Female pirate captain! Geena Davis! Married to the director! Girl power!

I’m not going to go into a lot of detail about the colossal failure this movie ended up being because Kate Dries already wrote that post over on Jezebel. Basically, the film cost $115 million to make and only earned $10 million worldwide when it was released. In other words, making this movie seemed like a really good idea at the time, a vehicle for outspoken feminist Geena Davis to prove to little girls everywhere that women can totally kick ass, but unfortunately Cutthroat Island couldn’t overcome its own shlock in the end.

The film is set in 1668, but you wouldn’t know it from the costumes, designed by Enrico Sabbatini. They’re all basically the standard Hollywood pirate fare: vests, breeches, froofy shirts, and the occasional frock coat.

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“And over there is where we will burn the piles of money we were given by the studio to make this film. Right next to the warehouse we built to house all of our V8 juice. Hell, let’s burn that too.”

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“Don’t you DARE touch my V8!”

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Not to knock Matthew Modine, but that mustache freaks me out.

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I can neither confirm nor deny that this inspired at least one ren faire costume of mine, c. 1995.

That said, there’s one ball scene in the film where fancy people are shown wearing fancy clothes and dancing all fancy-like.

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Oh, that gaposis on the orange gown in the background is baaaad.

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This film also suffers from “LOOK AT ALL THIS SHINY SHIT” during the ball scenes. The silhouettes are basically 1660s, but the fabric choices were made entirely based on how much lurex was in the fiber content.

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What is up with the gift bows at crotch level? Every single woman is wearing one. And if you’re not looking too closely, they totally look like pubes.

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We know this guy is bad because he’s both British AND wearing makeup.

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Morgan gets one nice gown and promptly trashes it. Also, that straw hat needs to be burned.

 

Are you a Geena Davis fan? Did Cutthroat Island come out at an important moment for you too?

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About the author

Sarah Lorraine

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Sarah discovered her dual passion for history and costume right around the age of twelve. Dragged kicking and screaming to her first Renaissance Faire at Black Point, she was convinced she was going to hate it, but to her surprise, she fell head over heels in love with the world of reenactment and dress up immediately. Her undergraduate degree is in Clothing & Textile Design, and she has a Master's in Art History and Visual Culture. When she’s not hauling crap to SCA events and ren faires, Sarah enjoys reading true crime books, writing fiction, and sewing historical clothing from the Middle Ages through the 20th-century. One of these days, she might even start updating her old costuming blog again.

8 Responses

  1. Daniel Milford-Cottam

    My God, I had a straw hat like that that I bought for a fiver off a market stall one Pride weekend in Brighton because I needed emergency shade from the sun. Hideous! I chucked it in the bin only a couple weeks ago….

    Reply
  2. thedementedfairy

    Geena Davis…hmmm, a bit toothy for my taste, and I always wished it was Susan Sarandon investigating her tiny white panties in Thelma and Louise, rather than Brad…but, she’s OK lol. I’ve never seen this film, and think by the look of your review, that I will keep it that way!

    Reply
  3. mmcquown

    The Long Kiss Good Night was a better Geena Davis action flick, with Samuel L. Jackson providing comedy relief when the almost non-stop action got too intense for the faint of heart. It’s a contemporary piece, but great fun.

    Reply
  4. Pirate Queen

    Hubby & I always liked Cutthroat Island despite its shortcomings. For a B-movie, it’s fun.

    Reply
  5. Liza Jane

    I actually paid to see this in a theater. I think it killed Geena Davis’s career for YEARS. As you say, a worthy impulse demolished by baaaaad execution.

    Reply
  6. Kate D

    I saw Cutthroat Island at a young and impressionable age, so it was a favorite of mine. I was into Xena Warrior Princess and “Girl Power” won me over every time. I wonder what I’d think of it now if I gave it a rewatch…

    Reply
  7. andrebd

    Thanks to this movie, I wanted to be a pirate.
    I would pretend I was a pirate in the park, (it had one of those wooden forts with accessories) the mast being the slide, and the sand being the sea. I would jump from swing to wing to avoid the sharks, and we would shoot each other red berry-balls.
    If a boy said “girls can´t be pirates!” I would say I was Morgan Adams and she has a movie, so of course they could!
    Afterwards of course, history also proved them wrong with the existence of so many badass ladies of the sea.
    I still love the movie in all of it’s awfulness, because the nostalgia obviously.
    Not planning in having kids, but I’d definitely play it if I had girls.
    But I laughed so much reading this article (and all of the rest), and WHAT IS GOING ON WITH THE GIFT BOWS OMG!.

    Reply

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