First, thanks to Amazon for finally unlinking this from the Delacorte stage recording - again!!!
I would love to have given it - the film version - 5 stars, but it just has too many flaws. "Dumbed down" for a mass audience, it is more self-consciously played for laughs, so inevitably less funny.
There is, however, much to enjoy. The sets are gorgeous, and allow a larger venue for Danielle's wonderfully quirky choreography, which Kline, the late Tony Azito, and their respective choruses make full use of. Kline, naturally, buckles a good swash and, given a whole (stage) ship to play in, leaps, climbs, falls and swings around it like a piratical Tarzan. Penzance does look more New England than old Cornwall, and the sets have been criticised as "stagy", but a realistic G&S would be a contradiction in terms.
The chorus of Police also make full use of the set, mainly to hide in, whilst Azito tumbles about like animated rubber. The late George Rose is a wonderful Major General - I particularly liked his spluttering fury getting the Pirate King right in the eye - and Ronstadt and Smith have gained confidence from their Broadway run. As for Angela Lansbury - everyone's favourite aunt is totally miscast, and in the second act veers between an irritation and an irrelevance. Patricia Routledge at the Delacorte was incomparably better. The female chorus, partly dubbed by the Broadway soloists and obviously post-synched, are a great improvement on the Delacorte one - admittedly not difficult. But the girls sobbing hysterically at Frederic's suggestion that they might be too plain to get husbands is wonderfully funny.
G&S fans should know that the libretto has been horribly cut. Gilbert can use some pruning, but not the chain-saw massacre committed here, making the action jerky, not helped by some dire editing. The nonsense involving the local dogs should have been drowned at birth - the idea, not the dogs, and the over-long battle between Pirates and Police cut by at least half. The idea of interrupting a "traditional" G&S performance was good as a visual metaphor for what Papp was trying to do, but rapidly descends into the bar-brawl beloved of B movie Westerns and is just as tedious. And for this we lose the glorious male voice chorus "We triumph now"!
The chapel scene "When you had left our pirate fold", such a gem at the Delacorte, is pretty awful; the staging isn't big enough for the actors - particularly two tall men - to fling themselves about, (and it wobbles!) the dialogue is hacked to death, and Kline commits the only bit of truly bad acting I've ever seen from him, and which no director should have let him get away with - though I suspect they may well have been responsible for it. (ADDENDUM Watching this scene again, I feel I might have been too harsh. It still isn't a patch on the Delacorte version, the dialogue has been badly cut, the editing is poor, and the laughs too contrived, but I was rather too rude about Mr Kline [I'm sure he's gutted!]. It isn't the show-stopper it was at the Delacorte, but still not as bad as I suggested.)
However, the big set pieces are superb - particularly "With cat-like tread/Come, friends who plough the sea!" sung and danced with great verve. "Sighing softly to the river", with Rose, Kline, Azito and both choruses, is simply hilarious, and the introduction contains a wonderful visual joke which I will not spoil. The film also has some great fun with Gilbert's dialogue, as well as some lovely self-referential jokes.
The finale is brilliant, very attractive, better acted and much tighter than the Delacorte, which did go on a bit. And, happily, Kline's young and highly susceptible Pirate King finally gets a girlfriend, not, with respect to Ms Routledge, a surrogate mother, as at the Delacorte!
And my favourite moment of the film? I will just say - watch Kline's face during "For all our faults, we love our Queen!" - priceless!