Give My Regards to Broad Street

If you thought it was weird that Sir Paul McCartney was going to cameo in Dead Men Tell No Tales, here’s something weirder. Back in 1984, the former Beatle wrote and starred in this bizarre pop artifact of silly self-indulgence and harmless fun. McCartney, as a loosely fictional version of himself, daydreams after a former thief disappears with the master tapes to his new album (a pre-Napster pirate?). Give My Regards to Broad Street occasionally grabs a hold of the kind of cartoon energy that marked earlier Beatles movies, but it was more promotional tool than anything else, and Roger Ebert rightly called it “as close as you can get to a nonmovie.”

Anne of the Indies

Striking fear into the hearts of all who travel the sea lanes, Captain Anne Providence is barbarous in her lust for plunder and violence. In a rare show of mercy, she allows a captured Frenchman to join her crew instead of walking the plank, and her budding romance with him marks the path toward tragedy. Jean Peters attacked the lead role with ferocity, and director Jacques Tourneur (who also did Out of the Past and Cat People) clearly understood the geography of blazing canons and forbidden romance. It’s a fantastic example of the genre that fights back tooth and nail against all attempts to domesticate the wild souls who fly the skull and crossbones. Meanwhile, Depp axed the idea of having a female villain in Dead Men Tell No Tales.

Tomorrowland

In a parallel universe, Disney was able to replicate the smashing Pirates success on dry land with another theme park-inspired adventure, leading to the release of Tomorrowland 2 this summer. This blissfully optimistic view of the future where George Clooney and Britt Robertson hang out with androids and try to stop a world-killing Tachyon machine split critics exactly in half and busted at the box office. Its vision was ambitious. It was also original in the same way Pirates was: a loose tie-in to the theme park which cribbed classic genre tropes for a new package. With this, The Haunted Mansion, and the other earlier attempts, it’s fascinating to see that Pirates was the only modern ride adaptation that took off. Maybe the key was its simplicity; it didn’t let huge ideas get in the way of all the sword fighting.

best movie pirates

The Mix

The longevity of this franchise is maddening because the earlier entries were genuinely fun, and that potential still exists like a grain of sand irritating a beleaguered clam. Another Black Pearl is always possible. Yet Pirates is also a victim and cause of franchise bloat, struggling to recapture what made its initial thrills so engaging. It would be difficult for any fifth installment to feel fresh, but it’s an especially steep challenge for a franchise bathed in a century of popular genre stories. Whether Dead Men Tell No Tales taps into that weather-worn exuberance of clashing steel and spraying seawater is a question for this weekend. The other big question, of course, is whether this will be the last of Captain Jack Sparrow’s adventures.

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