The Errol Flynn Signature Collection, Vol. 1 (Captain Blood / The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex / The Sea Hawk / They Died with Their Boots On / Dodge City / The Adventures of Errol Flynn)
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Flynn's stardom wasn't on a par with the richly ambiguous artistry of Cary Grant, or the deep, enduring heroic legacy of John Wayne, or the indelible character work amassed by Flynn's Warner Bros. contemporaries Humphrey Bogart, James Cagney, and Edward G. Robinson. Still, this most celebrated of Tasmanian devils was a one-of-a-kind, often raffishly entertaining icon of Hollywood in the '30s and '40s who played a big part in making the golden age glow. And for most of us, to say "swashbuckler" is to conjure up Flynn's wolfish grin above a rapier, director Mike Curtiz's wall-filling shadows of dueling men, and the symphonic, trumpet-filled music scores of Erich Wolfgang Korngold.
Stardom came swiftly. After two small-part assignments at Warners, the studio awarded Flynn the title role in Captain Blood (1935)--in retrospect, a sort of rough draft for his most beloved movie, The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938; not in this collection). The hero, an Irish-born physician wrongly convicted of treason during the reign of King James, is sentenced to a life of slavery in Jamaica. In short order he's charmed his new master's niece (the bright-eyed Olivia De Havilland, Maid Marian-to-be) and contrived an escape with his rebel comrades to become lusty, albeit passionately populist, buccaneers. The film's budget was clearly limited (there's a stark absence of horizons in the tropic and seagoing scenes), but director Curtiz's camerawork cunningly evokes the ever-present tilting and rolling of life aboard ship. Much-Oscar-nominated, the movie certified Flynn as the Douglas Fairbanks of the sound era--even in blond tresses and without what would become his signatory mustache.
If Captain Blood became the Flynn-Curtiz prototype for swashbucklers, The Sea Hawk was the last, luxury model off the line. Warners was always wired in to the zeitgeist, and this 1940 movie about English privateers saving Queen Elizabeth's island nation from the Spanish Armada does double duty as an in-Der-Fuehrer's-face allegory of the looming world war. No blank horizons here, and every wall sports a towering map of a world ripe for conquest. Slickness is all: Claude Rains and Henry Daniell are impeccably devious diplomats, and Sol Polito's black-and-white cinematography shifts into sultry sepiatone when the Sea Hawks sneak off to the tropics on a transatlantic espionage mission. (As for Flynn's mission, his swashbuckling would hereafter be confined to contemporary war pictures for the duration.)
He also saddled up for some lively Westerns. Dodge City (1939) is a knock-down, drag-out barn-burner in brassy Technicolor, with Flynn as a trail boss reluctantly turned town marshal. Curtiz directs yet again, with flair if not necessarily historical conviction, and the presence of Robin Hood costars Olivia De Havilland and Alan Hale (Little John) is virtually mandatory by this point. Ripe villainy is supplied by Bruce Cabot and--substituting, perhaps, for the un-frontier-worthy Basil Rathbone--the fox-faced Victor Jory.
They Died with Their Boots On (1942) is filled with spectacular Civil War and cavalry action, though its hagiographic treatment of George Armstrong Custer should set historically enlightened viewers on the warpath. Nonetheless, it features Flynn's most interesting performance in the collection. Whereas Curtiz was the ideal director for the star in boy's-own-adventure mode, Raoul Walsh elicited more nuanced work from him (see especially their wonderful Gentleman Jim, not included in this collection), and the scenes between Flynn and Olivia De Havilland achieve a tenderness that deepens with each reel. The magic-hour cinematography is by veteran John Ford cameraman Bert Glennon.
And that--apart from a new documentary feature, The Adventures of Errol Flynn--leaves The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939). Sad to say, that doesn't leave much. Bette Davis (taking the role Flora Robson played in The Sea Hawk) and Flynn (as the English knight the not-so-Virgin Queen loved but feared as a rival) have zero chemistry; she delivers a mannered performance only a Bette Davis impersonator could love, and Flynn demonstrates how stiff he could be (no pun intended) when clueless about his material. In fairness to both, the movie is a static adaptation of a very repetitious and declamatory Maxwell Anderson play. Its inclusion here is notable only as a vast technical improvement on the long-ago VHS release. --Richard T. Jameson
Top Customer Reviews
Sadly, few of Flynn's films have appeared, thus far, on DVD (the best being a superb "Adventures of Robin Hood" DVD, released last year). This new collection, while a mixed bag, does finally give DVD audiences a chance to savor two signature Flynn performances, in "Captain Blood" (his breakthrough starring role) and "The Sea Hawk" (one of the greatest swashbucklers ever made).Read more ›
It is good to see Flynn coming back "In" again (to play on the old "In like..." expression). He took a major hit some two decades ago with a most worthless book that became a bestseller ("The Secret Life of Errol Flynn" by Charles Higham )and smeared his name and reputation mean-spiritedly. This author, Higham, termed Flynn a traitor and Nazi spy and pedophile homosexual, supposedly using "credible" witness tesitimony and "classified documentation" to bolster his outrageous claims. He had Flynn doing all sorts of things to further the cause of the Reich and hooked him up with secret meetings all across Europe and in the Caribbean with his "Nazi intelligence controllers".Read more ›
Folks, get ready to be knocked out.
Not only has each film in the box been meticulously restored (and you won't believe the difference between the way you used to sea CAPT BLOOD and THE SEA HAWK on VHS or TCM and the amazing DVD restorations, as well as on all the pictures), but the bonus disc documentary, is worth the price of the box alone.
I have long admired the work of filmmakers David Heeley and Joan Kramer, and as they just did recently for John Garfield, they have crafted a rich, textured, honest, but not salacious, wonderful documentary on this amazing man who certainly had his demons, but also, by testimony from his most famous co-tar Olivia DeHavilland, ex-wives (Patrice Wymore Flynn looks so beautiful) , and children, was a loving, kind man who made several wrong turns in his life, but had much to be proud of and admired for. Aptly titled THE ADVENTURES OF ERROL FLYNN, this is another fine documentary coming from Warner Bros.' Turner Entertainment Co. division, as well as its sister company Turner Classic Movies.
The DVD set is handsomely packaged in WB's glorious SIGNATURE COLLECTION style, and happily, it features all new-to-DVD releases. WB obviously knows that Flynn fans got ROBIN HOOD with their wonderful Warner Legends box last year, so they wisely kept his most famouss film out of this new collection.
Each feature has not only been restored, but also given its own retrospective docu, and best of all, the ever-enthusiastic Leonard Maltin prowls the Warner lot to re-create A NIGHT AT THE MOVIES feature again, this time with a whole new slew of classic WB shorts, trailers and cartoons from the year of each film's release.
A stunning achievement, one that is sure to increase the pulse of film afficianados everywhere!
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Five great old films, supplemented with an engrossing documentary, with lots of interviews with Flynn's finest co-star, Olivia de Havilland.Published 8 months ago by M. A. Faletra
As an avid movie buff, especially when it comes to classic films like these, this is a definite welcome to my large and growing home library collection. Read morePublished 16 months ago by Wa2oosy
Great collection from a legendary actor. It's a shame no one knows who he was anymore.Published 16 months ago by Iowa Eddie
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