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Disney is finally unveiling the "Pirates of the Caribbean" trilogy on Blu-ray, and now you can relive one of the least-likely success stories in modern movie-making.
For years the rule of thumb in Hollywood was that movies centered around pirates were absolute poison, a skull & crossbone flag meant 100 percent pure box office death.
Roman Polanski's "Pirates" (cost $40 million, made less-than $2 mil) and Renny Harlin's "Cutthroat Island" (cost $115 mil, made $10 mil, the biggest flop of all time) helped perpetuate the myth, while "Hook" and "Muppet Treasure Island" didn't help matters much either.
It took a financial genius like producer Jerry Bruckheimer to realize that Walter Matthau, Matthew Modine, and Kermit were not gonna cut it in the sex appeal department, so who did he turn to when concocting his own pirate opus? Tim Burton's secret bride and general indie movie muse Johnny Depp, famous for hiding his good looks behind weird makeup for some of the most unbankable filmmakers in the biz (John Waters, Jim Jarmusch, etc).
Now guess what happened when Bruckheimer bet the farm on his wild card lead, a despised genre, and an idea based on a 40-year-old theme park ride: BILLION DOLLAR FRANCHISE, mother f**ker!
The first "Pirates of the Caribbean," given subtitle "The Curse of the Black Pearl" at the last minute, combined a beloved brand-name, supernatural elements, non-stop Indiana Jones-style cliffhangers, and quirky comedy as its winning formula. It introduced audiences to Captain Jack Sparrow, Depp's bizarre, mincing caricature of an infamous outlaw pirate with a taste for rum. His gold-toothed Keith Richards impersonation was balanced out by "Lord of the Rings" heartthrob Orlando Bloom and British Natalie Portman lookalike Keira Knightley as lovebirds Will Turner & Elizabeth Swan.
Their clash with the spectral Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) and his literal skeleton crew met with widespread delight. Once the inevitable second installment came around, Jack Sparrow re-introduced shooting his way out of a coffin, audiences were clamoring for more, and that's exactly what they got… more more more, as Andrea True once said.
"Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" took the same treasure hunt premise and injected it with the Flying Dutchman's crew of CGI monsters led by squid-faced Davy Jones (Bill Nighy) and added a humungous Kraken for good measure. As if that wasn't enough, there's a whole 30-minute subplot to rescue Jack from island cannibals which, despite being fun, has little to do with anything.
Shot back-to-back with its predecessor and, as admitted by everyone involved, absent of anything even remotely resembling a finished script, the third and not-so-final chapter "At World's End" proved even more unwieldy as director Gore Verbinski sought to end his pirate trilogy by throwing in everything including the kitchen sink, the kitchen, the house the kitchen was in, and the surrounding neighborhood. However, he and Bruckheimer were kind enough to give us Chow Yun Fat as sword-wielding Chinese pirate lord Sao Feng, as well as the much-demanded Keith Richards cameo as Jack's poppa. Oh, and a giant badass armada battle amid a huge whirlpool in the ocean.
Now with a fourth entry, "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides," due this summer and Johnny Depp's appetite for adventure having no end in sight, it's a great time to revisit the high seas swashbuckling... and really bad eggs. Drink up, me 'earties, yo ho!
Extras! Disney has parlayed their treasure trove of features onto six discs, including options to "Build Your Own View Of Pirate History," "Interact With Real Pirates From The Movie," and "Enter The Maelstrom," along with much more more more.