This is one of those films that I watched so much as a kid that there is a screen-burn of it imprinted on my eyeballs. And Yellowbeard (1983) is also one of those films that in retrospect had REALLY decent costumes considering it was spoofing every pirate flick ever made with an ensemble cast that was entirely comprised of the most famous comedians and comic actors of the 1970s and 1980s. Seriously, the IMDB page reads like a who’s who of late-20th-century British and American comedy.
In short, there’s no legitimate reason why the costumes in Yellowbeard should be as good as they are, other than they were designed by Stephen Miles, who has worked on some of the best historical flicks in the last three decades. Yellowbeard appears to be his only head costume designer credit, however he’s worked on many Frock Flick favorites such as Henry V, Much Ado About Nothing, The Madness of King George, and Cranford mainly as assistant designer and other assistant and supervisory roles. I find that interesting, because based on his body of work, he’s got the chops to be main designer. Maybe he just likes the background work better? Whatever the case, Yellowbeard is a solid example of how costume can work in a historical flick without resorting to dumbing it down for laffs.
Honestly, straight-up serious dramas do enough dumbing down of costuming for the entire genre of historical flicks. You’d think there would be a higher standard all around for historical dramas, but then again, if there were, we wouldn’t have this website. So, on that note…
This is really just the tip of the iceberg. If you’re in the mood for surrealist British comedy with an incomprehensibly extensive cast of famous people of the era, then definitely give this a watch.
Do you remember Yellowbeard too?
One of my top guilty-pleasure films.
I love this as a minimum standard for historical costuming in a movie ‘the whore is wearing all the appropriate layers under her stays” May I propose that we call this ‘The Lorraine Test’?
Ha! I’d be honored!
So let it be written, so let it be done.
I watched this movie once and found it really funny.
How have I never heard of this??!!
Cheech and Chong make amazing-looking Spaniards. What a cast!
I never saw it, and will have to look it up. Bowie pretending to be a shark and I missed it…?
I saw this in the theater when it first came out. I don’t remember much. Substances may have been involved. I guess I’ll have to watch it sober.
Oh, yes! I thought at the time that the costumes seemed far above average, but I was too busy laughing to take closer note.
Madeleine Kahn! Be still my heart! That woman was a comedic goddess amongst us.
Here! Here! Complete woman crush!
We obviously need a Kahn WCW.
We have one! Linked above in the first mention of her name (or search the site ;).
Ooh! Thanks! Don’t know how I missed that!
I’ve been trying to find this movie. I saw it in the theater when it came out, but couldn’t remember the name or date. All I could remember was Marty Feldman. Thank you! And costumes!
I have to admit that I never believed that there would be a fan of that movie. I saw it last year. Even if the costumes were OK, I had the impression that many of the actors like John Cleese only appeared to help Chapman that the movie would be possible, which was in other regard mostly just not funny enough and was spoiled by the fact that many scenes were just too long and the jokes were running out of steam.
It’s interesting to see how much work went into the film, noticing the different locations. As a fan of swashbuckler films I observed a massive change during the 1960s regarding the production of these films. Many productions from the US were mostly produced in studios, using even the very similar if not the same construction for the deck (even if the ship should be a lot bigger, when seen from a distance (mostly a very poor model which did not make any sense at all)). But since the Italians and Spanish captured the genre (as they did with the western and sandal film) they changed the look of the ships and harbours to “real” ships, although these “ships” were mostly looking ridiculous.
Nevertheless I always had the feeling that the end of “Yellowbeard” with the scene in the ship’s cabin is the most funny thing in the whole film.
Always loved this film, and on re-watch, thought the costuming was better than average for this type of film…. Mu husband even made a yellow beard reference last night and was surprised I picked up on it… Geeks loving geeks…LOL. Love this film for its entertainment value….and David Bowie!