Roman Polanski’s Pirates is a decidedly underwhelming comedy adventure adding up to a major disappointment.

Pirates first was announced as a 1976 Polanski feature to star Jack Nicholson and Isabelle Adjani, before finally being produced (commencing in 1984) in Tunisia, Malta and the Seychelles, costing in excess of $30 million.

Walter Matthau gainfully essays the central role of Capt Thomas Bartholomew Red, a peg-legged British pirate captain with plenty of Long John Silver in his manner. Teamed with a handsome young French sailor (Cris Campion), Red is captured by Don Alfonso (Damien Thomas), captain of the Spanish galleon Neptune.

In a series of turnabout adventures, Red causes the Neptune’s crew to mutiny, takes the niece (Charlotte Lewis) of the governor of Maracaibo hostage, and steals a golden Aztec throne from the Spaniards.

Casting is unimpressive, with Matthau unable to carry the picture singlehandedly. Newcomer Campion projects a pleasant personality, more than can be said for Polanski’s discovery Charlotte Lewis, thoroughly inexpressive here.

1986: Nomination: Best Costume Design


France - Tunisia

  • Production: Carthago/Accent-Cominco. Director Roman Polanski; Producer Tarak Ben Ammar; Screenplay Gerard Brach, Roman Polanski, John Brownjohn; Camera Witold Sobocinski; Editor Herve de Luze, William Reynolds; Music Philippe Sarde; Art Director Pierre Guffroy
  • Crew: (Color) Widescreen. Available on VHS. Extract of a review from 1986. Running time: 124 MIN.
  • With: Walter Matthau Damien Thomas Richard Pearson Cris Campion Charlotte Lewis Olu Jacobs