Committed To The Asylum – PIRATES OF TREASURE ISLAND

I love cheesy B movies. I always have and I always will. It’s because of this that I love the movies of The Asylum, their filmmakers are the new Roger Cormans. In this series, I will take a look at all of their so-called “mockbusters”, and compare them to their theatrical counterparts. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Pirates of Treasure Island

You know you’re in for a treat when you say, out loud, “What the mother-fuck?!?” three times before the opening credits even roll.

Pirates of Treasure Island, The Asylum’s tie-in release for the second Pirates of the Caribbean movie (Dead Man’s Chest) is actually, ostensibly, an adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel Treasure Island. It might be the loosest adaptation since, well, ever, but it’s still one of the awesomest I’ve ever seen. Everyone involved here outdid themselves in making a near-perfect Asylum film. I have no idea what was going on in the heads of Leigh Scott (who directed this, as well as half of the movies I’ve reviewed so far in this series) and his co-writer Carlos De Los Rios (who’s also credited on half of this series, but not all the same ones), but it sure as hell looks like they were hopped up on crazy. Oh, and this movie is like a class reunion of all the the movies we’ve watched so far if you’re playing along at home.

The movie starts with Lance Henkrison (back already!) as Long John Silver (with a fantastic, ever-changing accent – most of the time it’s Irish-ish, but sometimes it’s Scottish or British), committing a mutiny against Captain Flint (Chris Anglin of When a Killer Calls and Hillside Cannibals, taking a break from softcore porn) on Skeleton Island. Then of course there’s an attempted mutiny of his mutiny that turns into a Tarantino-lite shoot-out/sword battle, and that’s when the giant bugs show up. And why do the giant bugs show up? Because fuck you, this is an Asylum movie, that’s why.

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Oh yea, and I forgot to mention the pure joy that is Blind Pew.

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(David Shick, of Possession of Gail Bowers not David Cross in a Mr. Show sketch)

And this was all before the credits.

Once we’re into the movie proper we’re introduced to young tavern owner Jim Hawkins (Tom Nagel, of Hillside Cannibals and, soon, Man of Steel) and his barmaid played by Rebakah Kochan (Possession of Gail Bowers, When a Killer Calls). I’m not giving her name because I can’t remember it, and it doesn’t matter for reasons that you’ll understand soon enough. One night, just after they close, one of the mutineers from earlier (Justin Jones, of When a Killer Calls and Hillside Cannibals) comes in and pays way too much for them to stay open so he can have a drink. While he’s there Blind Pew joins him, they argue over a map, there’s some pretty great threatening dialog about gunpowder in muskets, long story short… they both end up dead. Hawkins takes the map and decides he wants a more exciting life of piracy and treasure. The barmaid tries to talk him out of it, but to no avail.

Hawkins finds a scientist, Dr. Livesey (Jeff Denton, of King of the Lost World and Possession of Gail Bowers) and together they, claiming to be on wildlife expedition, recruit Captain Smollette (James Ferris, of King of the Lost World and a bunch of TV guest stuff you’ve probably seen) and his hilarious French accent to sail them to Skeleton Island. Silver, now claiming to be a cook named Barbecue, supplies the rest of the crew (all of which are secretly his former crew). Well not all, as Smollette does bring on a Yeoman (Andrea Lui, who you’ll recognize from nothing), clearly a woman poorly disguised as a man, and his “beautiful girls” (Alexandra Boylan, Jennifer Lee Wiggins and Crystal Napoles, all familiar to this column) though he makes it clear that he doesn’t “recall using the word daughters.”

And oh no, the barmaid somehow got on the ship, also dressed as a man! Lots of cross-dressing in this movie.

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(An 18th drag king convincingly passing as a man.)

After a seemingly-pointless, but sure-to-come-back-later scene about teaching Hawkins to swordfight, we see Silver talking to the crew about the plans to mutiny and steal the treasure. Problem is Hawkins sees it too. They give him the choice of joining them or dying, because they can’t have him snitching. All of a sudden the barmaid shows up to save his ass and the pirates freak the hell out. Probably because they’re fictional, and she’s real-life pirate Ann Bonny. After the pirates all finish crapping themselves, everyone decides that mutinying when they get to the island and splitting the treasure is the way to go.

So they mutiny and they go to the island and there’s this huge confusing mess that involves Smollete and some people that sided with him fighting back and Silver double-crossing and I don’t even know what, but it comes to Hawkins, Bonny, Smollete, his yeoman and marooned pirate Ben Gunn (hey, let’s bring in the director as someone new 10 minutes before the end of the movie) trying to get to the treasure before Silver and his men. Everyone gets there at about the same time and there’s a huge fight. Almost all the heroes are seemingly mortally wounded then suddenly fine. There’s a call-back to the sword-fighting lesson. The pirates are all killed and there’s a bizarre horror movie he-came-back-from-the-dead moment with a great pay-off.

Back to the ship, Hawkins, Bonny, the yeoman (Yee, her name is) and Gunn untie the girls (Polly, Sophie and Kiki) and arm them. Then they wake up the sleeping pirates who had stayed behind to guard them (not entirely sure why they didn’t just kill them in their sleep). The fight, which mainly consists of the five women slaughtering the pirates, is pretty great. And that’s when the giant bugs show up. And why do the giant bugs show up? Because fuck you, this is an Asylum movie, that’s why.

Add a nice little epilogue about Hawkins getting letters of mark and becoming a privateer with an all-female crew and we’re done.

You have no idea how much I loved Pirates of Treasure Island. It was everything you want out of an Asylum movie. It had all their regular actors, plus one kind of big-name one. It had giant bugs tearing off said kind of big-name actor’s leg. There were some actually decent establishing shots and some pretty terrible sets. It had gunfights that looked vaguely like grown-ups having the kind of cap gun fights we used to have as kids. I think Leigh Scott has made a masterpiece.

It was crazy and stupid and shit happened for no reason at all. But at the same time, I wouldn’t take any of that pointless stuff out. Why would you add giant bugs to Treasure Island? I think the better question is why didn’t Robert Louis Stevenson include them to begin with?

Stuff To Look Out For

Blackthorn Industries! At the end of the movie, Ann Bonny is talking about ships to look for now that they’re privateers and she mentions one as carrying a shipment for Blackthorn.

There’s a scene where Long John Silver makes a very big deal about about piercing Jim Hawkins’ ear. Unfortunately, he’s incredibly visibly wearing a huge, dangling earring in the scene immediately before it.

Hey, you know what? I think this is Rebakah Kochan’s first appearance in an Asylum mockbuster without a horrifying and/or torture-filled nude scene. Good for you, Rebakah!

How does it compare?

Pirates of the Caribbean and Pirates of Treasure Island are two completely different kinds of camp. But it really is apples and oranges. PotC is campy because Johnny Depp wanted it to be. PoTI is campy because it is.

Next time: Snakes on a Train