The Crimson Pirate
No-one but no-one commands a screen like the oft-forgotten Burt Lancaster. In a stri-ped pair of pants, as Richard Harris might have described them in Macarthur Park, 1952-vintage Burt flashes the flashiest teeth on the Spanish Main and, as a former circus acrobat, does his own stunts. Among the pick of the 1950s movie pirates, Burt probably scrapes his chest hair off with barnacles and doesn’t even wince.
Dustin Hoffman in top Terry-Thomas form, the sort of man who scares children to sleep.
‘Lie? Me? Ha, hah, hah. Never. The truth is far too much fun’. His lesson on Why Parents Hate Their Children will have mums and dads the whole world over quietly acquiescing. You wish he’d triumph over Robin Williams’ Peter Pan, but alas it’s not to be.
The Dread Pirate Roberts
From William Goldman’s wonderful fairy tale adventure for grown-ups, The Princess Bride. The Dread Pirate Roberts is an honorary title, held by the most feared pirate of the day until he’s plundered enough for a retirement pension and then passes it on to the next scourge of the seven seas.
Cary Elwes holds the title and his duel with swordsman Inigo Montoya (Mandy Patinkin) is one of cinema’s best – understated brilliance. ‘I must tell you, I’m not left handed,’ says Montoya. ‘I must tell you, neither am I,’ replies Elwes.
The great Robert Newton’s ‘Jim, lad’ Long John Silver has passed into pirate movie lore, but for sheer swivel-eyed, arrghs-rolling hamming it up, his 1952 Blackbeard the Pirate takes the ship’s biscuit. Newton was Dorset-born which gave him a piratical phonemic head start. If you’ve ever despaired of mastering the pirate’s brogue, lend an ear to William Bendix, who usually played Noo Yawk plugs in B-movies galore. If he can do it, anyone can.
Long John Silver
From Orson Welles and Charlton Heston to Tom Baker and Eddie Izzard, they’ve all had a crack as the peg-legged terror of the high seas, and we’ll down a tot of rum and raise a ‘Yo ho ho’ in the Spyglass inn each and every one of ‘em. But for a perfect blend of fear and fun, we salute Tim Curry’s LJS in A Muppet Treasure Island.
Familiarity may breed a lip-curling sneer of contempt and the Pirates of the Caribbean has pretty much outworn its original hearty welcome. However, it would be churlish to make Jack Sparrow walk the plank off our list. His riff on Keith Richards is a hoot on first meeting.