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The Errol Flynn Signature Collection, Vol. 2 (The Charge of the Light Brigade / Gentleman Jim / The Adventures of Don Juan / The Dawn Patrol / Dive Bomber)
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ADVENTURES OF DON JUAN – Blade-flashing duels, devil-may-care bravado – a glorious Flynn swashbuckler. THE CHARGE OF THE LIGHT BRIGADE – Flynn's British Lancers take the reins for one of film's greatest action sequences. THE DAWN PATROL – Dogfights above, challenges of command below: Flynn and David Niven team in a landmark tale of World War 1 flyboys. DIVE BOMER – They go first so that others may follow. A detailed and heroic tale of U.S. Navy fight research stars Flynn and Fred MacMurray. GENTLE JIM – Elegance in his style … thunder in his fists. James C. Corbett (Flynn) revolutionizes boxing.]]>
Let's take that last one first. Raoul Walsh's Gentleman Jim (1942) is a great, boisterous gift box of a movie, a high-spirited biopic of late-19th-century prizefighter James J. Corbett. The setting is San Francisco in the Gay '90s, with Flynn/Corbett starting out as a brash, egotistical bank teller fast with his mouth and light on his feet. Given a chance to crash high society, he becomes a pugilist for the amusement of the nabobs, then sets out on a boxing career that will bring him glove-to-glove with the Great John L. ... Sullivan, that is, and portrayed with Walshian gusto by Ward Bond. Gentleman Jim is fragrant with period atmosphere, exhilarating in its feeling for space and back-slapping human contact, and so big-hearted and exuberant that it finally invites the audience right into the film. Alexis Smith--as a socialite who ribs Corbett mercilessly--and Flynn conduct a strikingly egalitarian mating duel. The supporting cast includes Jack Carson, Alan Hale, and the epically grumpy William Frawley, and the whirlwind montages are by future director Don Siegel. This is great fun--and a masterpiece to boot.
The adventure movie is The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936), Flynn's second star vehicle in Hollywood. A step up in scale and gloss from Captain Blood, this Michael Curtiz picture is historical poppycock but thrilling spectacle, with exotic doings in India and Asia Minor building to the horrendous siege of Chukoti, then a lateral move to the Crimea for the big Tennyson finish every perennial schoolboy in the audience has been waiting for. The Flynn of this swashbuckler-one-step-removed isn't the buoyant and boyish fellow we expect; he even comes in second to fellow Bengal Lancer (and dull brother) Patric Knowles for the heart of Olivia De Havilland. But he wears nobility well, and there's genuine tenderness in his performance. The camerawork and editing of the Charge will lift your heart rate, and the large supporting cast includes Donald Crisp, Nigel Bruce, Spring Byington, C. Henry Gordon, and Flynn pal David Niven.
Niven and Flynn are together again in The Dawn Patrol (1938), a memorable WWI tale of British airmen flying perilous missions in flimsy planes, and the flight commanders who have to send them out to do it. Basil Rathbone (in a rare departure from villainy in a Flynn movie) plays the tortured commandant whom hotshot Flynn will be obliged to succeed. Although this is the Dawn Patrol most people know, it's actually the remake of a 1930 Howard Hawks classic. The original has a starker feel (inseparable from its early-talkie creakiness), as if its airbase were at the edge of the known world. The more up-to-date Flynn version, directed by Edmund Goulding, is smoother entertainment, with a stronger supporting cast--but all the flying footage is from Hawks's movie.
The other aviation drama is Dive Bomber (1941), a big hit just before America's entry into WWII. Flynn plays it more sober than usual (no pun intended) as a Navy flight surgeon helping to lick the challenge of high-altitude sickness. There's no good reason for the movie to last 132 minutes, and both the macho griping of aviator Fred MacMurray and the garish treatment of the peripheral females (including Alexis Smith in her first featured role) get tiresome. But these are worth enduring for the breathtaking flight scenes in vivid Technicolor--which looks every bit as great as it must have in 1941. Director Michael Curtiz, in what would be his last film with Flynn, even sets up the ground scenes to include low-altitude flyovers.
The Adventures of Don Juan (1948), made near the end of Flynn's Warner years, is a footnote to the star's swashbuckling legacy and a not-very-inside joke on his reputation as real-life Don Juan; the picture is at least as interested in eliciting chuckles as serving up thrills. Director Vincent Sherman lacked the brio of Curtiz and the gusto of Walsh, but he ably steers the actor past self-parody to a reasonably graceful performance. Again, the real excitement is the ultra-radiant Technicolor--a perhaps inadvertent result of veteran film noir cameraman Woody Bredell lighting the movie as though he were still working that black-and-white territory. Viveca Lindfors supplies urbane love interest as the Queen of Spain, and Robert Douglas stands in for Basil Rathbone as villain-in-chief.
Consistent with previous Warner practice, all but one of the features in Volume 2 come packaged with a "Warner Night at the Movies" set of shorts: cartoons, comedy shorts, trailers for contemporaneous WB movies, and sometimes newsreels. The disc of Gentleman Jim also includes an audio-only bonus, a radio reenactment featuring Flynn and costars Alexis Smith and Ward Bond. Probably because of its two-hour-plus running time, Dive Bomber is accompanied only by its trailer and a brief documentary, in which historian Rudy Behlmer shares a choice anecdote about Mike Curtiz attempting to direct airplanes. Unfortunately, of Flynn and his various directors, only Vincent Sherman was still available to do a commentary track (on Adventures of Don Juan, which also includes Behlmer commentary); Sherman passed away in 2006 at the age of 99. --Richard T. Jameson
Top Customer Reviews
"The Charge of the Light Brigade" (1936): Flynn's follow-up to "Captain Blood" is a tour-de-force of adventure, romance, and spectacle, climaxing in, arguably, the greatest (and bloodiest) cavalry charge in screen history! More Rudyard Kipling than Tennyson, most of the story occurs in India, with noble Flynn saving the life of a genocide-minded tyrant, losing Olivia de Havilland (for once!) to future 'Will Scarlet' Patric Knowles, and chumming with doomed best friend (both on and off screen), David Niven. Eventually the action moves to the Crimea, and the infamous Charge, an astonishing spectacle that, sadly, cost the lives of at least one stunt man, and hundreds of horses (Flynn, himself, would be so distraught by the carnage that he helped establish the present standards against animal cruelty).
"The Adventures of Don Juan" (1948): Warner's attempt to resuscitate Flynn's sagging career failed, but the film is an absolutely enchanting, tongue-in-cheek swashbuckler many consider his last 'great' film! Looking a bit worn (he fell off the wagon early in the production, which ended up taking nearly a year to complete), Flynn is the immortal roué, too often caught during trysts (a familiar real-life dilemma for Flynn!).Read more ›
Warner Bros. has been quite generous in delivering us many Flynn titles in recent years, and there are dozens to go! This latest set will not dissapoint his fans, with 5 entertaining, classic vehicles, assembled in an impressive newly designed sleeve that takes the WB Signature Collection series to a higher plane of elegance and magnetism.
Every film here is top-drawer, but my particular favorite has to be CHARGE OF THE LIGHT BRIGADE. An undeniable classic which has never looked so good. All the transfers here are the best I've ever seen, and the vintage extras Warner has included are like the cherry on top of the sundae.
I'm sure WB has another 2 or 3 Flynn sets waiting in the wings...and why not. He made several dozen films for the studio, and only a handful don't classify as timeless entertainment.
I was originally only going to get this one movie, but now I really look forward to watching all the others again, too!
films that failed to include "The Charge of the Light Brigade" was close on to insanity, and opined at the time that this must mean a volume two was in the works that would be headlined by "Charge", and might also include the marvelous "Gentleman Jim". Happily, it looks like I was right.
This second Flynn "Signature" collection has both "Charge of the Light Brigade" and "Gentleman Jim" included, as well as "Adventures of Don Juan", "Dive Bomber", and "The Dawn Patrol" , and is a pretty decent cross-sampling of the actor's product.
I have stated in reviews before that "Light Brigade" remains...after all these decades...the single most amazing footage of horse action ever put to film. The charge in the movie is as legendary in its own right as the real charge at Balaclava was. In its stuntwork, cinematography, and editing, it is an absolute jaw-dropper. The screen story leading up to the charge is a fictitious weaving of events based on India's Sepoy rebellion and is used to develop audience repugnance for a villain named Surat Khan, who later appears with the Russians in the Crimea. The sequence where Khan is confronted by Flynn's Geoffrey Vickers at the movie's end is a classic cinema moment of "you're gonna get YOURS, sucker!".
Now for Dive Bomber. I mention this film specifically because it relates directly to spurious nonsense put out in a book called "The Secret Life of Errol Flynn" by Charles Higham , published back in the late 70s and claiming that Flynn was some kind of Nazi spy.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I guess my wife is right...my favorite movies are in black and white and all the actors are dead.Published 2 days ago by J. J. Johnson
Warner's Errol Flynn Signature Collection, Vol. 2, features 5 Flynn films in 5 slim-case DVDs all in a box. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Old Film Lover
This review only concerns the playability of the disks in this set, not the quality of the movies. For the record, I bought my copy, presumably factory-sealed, from the mail order... Read morePublished 3 months ago by Stanley Higgins
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