The 1983 film adaptation of 'The Pirates of Penzance' -- your free movie of the day -- has a reputation for not being good. In a word, that's unfair: the reviews at the time of the film's release were actually enthusiastic.

And it was just about brilliant for legendary theater producer Joseph Papp, who had successfully returned the beloved and rollicking Gilbert and Sullivan operetta to Broadway for nearly 800 performances starting in 1981, to take full advantage of the title's popularity by dipping his toes into Hollywood waters. The 1983 film adaptation of 'The Pirates of Penzance' -- your free movie of the day -- has a reputation for not being good. In a word, that's unfair: the reviews at the time of the film's release were actually enthusiastic.

And it was just about brilliant for legendary theater producer Joseph Papp, who had successfully returned the beloved and rollicking Gilbert and Sullivan operetta to Broadway for nearly 800 performances starting in 1981, to take full advantage of the title's popularity by dipping his toes into Hollywood waters.

No, the real culprit was the film's distributor. In essence, Universal Pictures failed to balance the demands of cable TV, which at that time was on the rise, with the demands of movie theater operators.

So it's better, then, just to focus on the film, which is as deliriously silly as Gilbert and Sullivan could have intended. It concerns a young man apprenticed to a posse of pirates who, truth to tell, couldn't do much more than terrorize a flea. His name is Frederic; on musical-comedy cue, he falls for the fetching daughter of a major-general. All would be well for these two but for the length of the term of his apprenticeship -- and the fact that he was born on Leap Day.

'Pirates' stars Kevin Kline as a whimsy-driven, swashbuckling Pirate King, reprising the role that won him a Tony Award on Broadway. It also stars two major artists of early 1980s pop music -- Linda Ronstadt and Rex Smith -- as the young lovers. (Yes, they totally proved they not only had the singing chops but the acting chops to make such plot nonsense believable.) Perhaps most special of all is Angela Lansbury, eyes bigger than her head, in the cut-up role of Ruth, the pirate maid.

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