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“Musical Mutiny”: Barry Mahon’s 1970 teensploitation film was lensed at the long-gone Pirates World
Musical Mutiny — included in Night Flight’s “Something Weird” collection, streaming on Night Flight Plus — is a combination outdoor rock concert and loosely-plotted teensploitation curiosity released to theaters in 1970.
It was directed by the legendary low-budget filmmaker Barry Mahon, who filmed everything himself on location in his headquarters of Dania, Florida, located on the Atlantic Ocean side of the state between Ft. Lauderdale and Miami, including scenes at one of his favorite filming locations, a long-gone amusement park called Pirate’s World.
The prolific Mahon was a one-man movie factory, cranking out pictures just as fast as he could load his camera, and when Musical Mutiny was released, on May 7, 1970, the director/producer/cinematographer/actor was 49 years of age and had already directed dozens of grindhouse films, including (mostly) smutty sexploitation fare and what were commonly called “nudie flicks.”
Mahon later segued, somewhat curiously, into lensing weird little fairytale movies, intended for children to see during afternoon matinée screenings, including Thumbelina and Jack and the Beanstalk (both released in 1970).
Just a year earlier, in 1969, he had also directed The Wonderful Land of Oz, based on Frank Baum’s novel The Marvelous Land of Oz, which we told you about here (there was quite a bit of biographical detail about Mahon’s life in that previous blog entry, so we encourage you to go there to read more on Mahon’s life and filmography).
When he was interviewed in 1994, Mahon — who had relocated to Dania, Florida, from New York in the late ’60s — said this about his favorite local spot to make movies:
“l took over the studio at Pirates World, a bit north of Miami, and made Jack and the Beanstalk and Thumbelina and a bunch of pictures like that… Pirates World’s biggest claim to fame was the rock concerts we held there. I hired Michael Jackson and The Jackson Five for $10,000! And Grand Funk Railroad and Iron Butterfly. Got all those for around ten thousand bucks. And we made a lot of money doing that.”
Indeed, Pirates World, an 87-acre buccaneer-themed amusement park, located on the north side of Sheridan Street just east of US Highway 1, had plunged into the rock concert business head-long in the late Sixties, and played host to most of the major touring bands over the next few years.
By the time Iron Butterfly were filmed by Mahon — on either June 19th or 20th, 1970 — Pirates World had already hosted concerts by Led Zeppelin (1969), The Faces (1970), and the Grateful Dead (1970), and the Johnny Winter album Live: Johnny Winter And (released in 1971) was partly recorded at Pirates World in the fall of 1970.
The first incarnation of the concert venue was an outdoor stage with bleachers.
Over the course of the next few years the amusement park would also host concerts by Traffic (1970), Black Sabbath (1971), Blood, Sweat, and Tears (1971), Deep Purple (1971), Jethro Tull (1971), Grand Funk Railroad (1971), The Steve Miller Band (1971), The Guess Who (1971), The Moody Blues (1971), Three Dog Night (1971), David Bowie (1972), The Doors (1972), Wishbone Ash (1973), Santana (1973), Alice Cooper (1973), and The Beach Boys (1973), to name just a few of the top bands who graced their stage (many of these classic rock combos would make repeat appearances too).
We have no doubt that Mahon filmed the Iron Butterfly concert footage first, before he had any idea what the plot of his movie should be, and later he combined stock footage of the park’s rides (all fifteen of them) and other attractions at Pirates World and then concocted the rest of the story and filmed it separately (probably without giving it much thought).
The plot, roughly, concerns the ghost of an 18th Century Caribbean “pirate” named Don Williams the Great, who rises out of the sea one day, from where he’s been resting his weary bones, who then decides to visit his old haunting grounds and former hideaway, only to discover that there’s an amusement park on the property now.
This pirate (who already has late 60s hippie slang down pat despite being dead for centuries) wanders around unnoticed around the park, since the attendants are also dressed as buccaneers.
He decides to liven things up a bit by commanding the teen population of the country to rush the gates and attend what he calls a “mutiny,” which basically means they’re to crash the gates of the concert by rock band Iron Butterfly without stopping to pay for a ticket first (it was a popular concept in the post-Woodstock era, that live rock concerts should be “free”).
He poses as Pirate World’s publicity manager and tells the gatekeeper to open the doors for the show at 7pm and let everyone in for free as a publicity stunt.
“The time is come to show all the talk of revolution and to act! Mutiny. Yes, gather ye ’round, me hardies, we’re going to have a mutiny at Pirates World!”
The teens come a runnin’, of course they do — hippies and freaks, yes, but mostly they appear to be wholesome lookin’ pre-teen representatives of the Love Generation, some of them arriving on motorcycles, a bunch of dune buggies and we even see a garbage truck that features a sign that reads “You Are What You Eat” — when they hear about the free concert (“Dig it, it’s a mutiny!” “A mutiny? Let’s go!” “Outta sight!”).
Iron Butterfly — who at the time were Erik Braun, Ron Bushy, Lee Dorman, and Doug Ingle — get pissed off about this, however, because this means they won’t get paid and they storm off the stage after playing just two songs (“No money, no music!”).
Suddenly, a handful of lesser-known local Florida bands — The Fantasy, The New Society Band, Grit and a lovely folk singer named Terri De Sario — show up all over Pirates World and start playing for free, for the assembled masses.
There’s also a few wacky sub-plots, including a teen chemist who may or may not have invented a new hallucinogenic soft drink that he and a bunch of dudes are trying to sell (no one seems to be buyin’, though), and a rich hippie kid and his girlfriend who arrive to the concert in a chauffeur-driven limo.
The dude’s rich dad, by the way, is played by director Brad Grinter, whose great little horror film Blood Freak told the story of a man with a giant turkey head who only drank the blood of drug addicts.
This rich hippie agrees to pay the price of the concert if Iron Butterfly will continue, so the band takes the stage again and they launch into their hit song, “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida,” a bludgeoning heavy rock performance which goes on for sixteen-plus minutes, achieving high levels of early 70s heaviosity.
Meanwhile, Mahon’s camera obnoxiously zooms in and out to show us just how far out everything we’re seeing really is, and boy is it “far out!” (the director also inserted hilarious cutaways which have psychedelic renderings on them and simple one word statements like “LOVE”).
Mahon originally paired Musical Mutiny with a second film from 1970, Weekend Rebellion, which featured Grand Funk Railroad and a handful of other acts.
The two films were screened together (unfortunately we just have the first film to share with you, courtesy of our friends at Something Weird video).
Aerial view of Pirate World, Dania, Florida, with Hollywood by the Sea in the background
Pirate World opened their doors to the public on April 8, 1967, and for a time the park — a $7 million dollar investment developed on 35-plus acres by Recreation Corporation of America — was a popular tourist attraction, just one of dozens of carnival-type parks on the eastern seaboard but this one seems to have been particularly popular among local Floridians.
The park was split into pirate-y segments — like Disneyland, of course, if you can imagine the entire park in Anaheim being focused on just one theme, that of “pirates” — which were devoted to the China Sea, the Spanish Main, New Orleans, the Barbary Coast and Port Royal.
Admission was initially just $3.50 for adults, and $2.50 for kids.
They didn’t have too many rides — the “Grand National Steeplechase,” which was originally from Coney Island, was one of several second-hand purchases obtained from other amusement parks and fairs — seems to have been the most popular, but they also had what seems to have been an awesome Log Flume ride, a Mouse Trap roller coaster, and various other carnival-type rides as well.
The Crow’s Nest observation tower had been the Belgian Aerial Tower at the 1964/65 New York World’s Fair.
Another popular feature was the pirate ship ride — an actual life-sized pirate ship, piloted by park employees — which cruised along a “river” through a barrage of cannon fire and “enemy” pirates shooting at the ship, while the pirates that were aboard the ship were firing back at them, protecting their passengers from harm.
Pirates World seems to have had a successful run during the park’s early years, becoming a major tourist attraction, but then, in 1971, Walt Disney World opened and the landscape of Florida tourism changed forever.
By 1973, Pirates World was in bankruptcy, finally closing their doors for good in 1975.
The land was sold, zoned residential, and the Watermark condominiums were built over the last traces of the park in 1982.