Errol Flynn was certainly the most colorful star of Hollywood's "Golden Age", with a devil-may-care swagger hiding the insecurities of an unhappy childhood, reckless lifestyle, and desperate desire to achieve respect as an actor, and not just a swashbuckler in tights. Flynn could be sweet and courteous, an arrogant bully, a roue and bon vivant, a restless adventurer, a loyal friend, or an unreliable "royal pain", depending on who you spoke to (and when). His sexual exploits were legendary, as were his capacities for alcohol and drugs (all of which were truly remarkable, considering the poor health he endured throughout his life, despite his robust on-screen appearance). Ultimately, whether you loved or hated his lifestyle, his film work, during nearly eighteen years under contract to Warner Brothers, includes some of the most extraordinary, entertaining classics ever made, and his charisma continues to enchant audiences!
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). The rest of the collection lacks the luster of these films, but are certainly worthwhile; "The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex" teams Flynn with Bette Davis (who despised him, and fought to get Laurence Olivier for Essex), and, with "The Sea Hawk", shows Flynn playing opposite two very different interpretations of Queen Elizabeth; "They Died with Their Boots On", Raoul Walsh's fanciful biopic of George Armstrong Custer, offers a slam-bang, if inaccurate, version of the Little Big Horn, and the last teaming of Flynn and his favorite leading lady, Olivia de Havilland ("Captain Blood" was their first of eight films together); "Dodge City" represented a major gamble, as Warners had no idea if audiences would accept Tasmanian Flynn as a cowboy in the Old West (they did, and Flynn would make seven more westerns, over the next ten years...actually making more westerns than swashbucklers or war movies!). While I'd have preferred seeing "The Dawn Patrol", "The Adventures of Don Juan", and "The Charge of the Light Brigade", in this collection, the choice of films does show Flynn at his most gloriously handsome!
Best of all, TCM has produced "The Adventures of Errol Flynn", a long-overdue biography, which is included in the package. Along with interviews with his family and friends, including extensive interviews with de Havilland, wives Patrice Wymore and Nora Eddington (in archival footage), and daughter Deirdre, it offers 'behind-the-scenes' footage, private home movies, and material never before seen by the public (including footage from the never-completed "William Tell"), which makes this a 'must' for Flynn fans.
While it will probably be years before all of Errol Flynn's films reach DVD, this collection offers an excellent introduction to a true Hollywood "Original", and is well worth owning!
on May 8, 2005
Okay, here it is. Strait up. I adore Errol Flynn. Always have, always will. Can't remember which of his films I saw first on television years ago (though my little grey brain cells keep whispering "They Died With Their Boots On"), but whatever it was, it made me instantly a Flynn junkie and I have remained so ever since. It is hard to say which of the "Tasmanian Devil's" movies I like the best, though I'm inclined to believe it is a toss-up between "The Adventures of Robin Hood" and "The Charge of the Light Brigade" (this awesome film amazingly MISSING from this "signature" collection...and it's unfathomable absence the priciple reason I have rated this collection as only 4 stars instead of 5). How does one have an Errol Flynn "signature" collection with "Charge of the Light Brigade" so glaringly unincluded? Boggles the mind. One would hope Turner Classics would produce a "Volume II" to this, a follow-up that would feature "Light Brigade", "The Dawn Patrol", "Gentleman Jim","Adventures of Don Juan", and one of Joanne Woodward's favorites, "That Forsyte Woman" from MGM (or else "Uncertain Glory" or "Edge of Darkness").
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". Among his claims were that Errol used his influence to have secret aerial shots of Pearl Harbor filmed during the production of "Dive Bomber", which he funnelled to German Intelligence ("Abwehr"), and thence to the Japanese to help plan their attack.
He also had Flynn at a secret nazi confab in the Bahamas with the Duke and Duchess of Windsor and other British traitors. These were only two "for instances" of this kind of thing. Then he had Flynn "spy controlled" by Dr. Julius Erben, a low-level Abwehr agent....with documents (supposedly) to "prove" it.
In short order, all Higham's claims came crashing down in the face of REAL research by REAL researchers digging up REAL facts.
All the times Higham had Flynn meeting with "Nazis" in Europe, he could not have done so, as all the Warner Brothers' shooting logs still exist and Flynn's whereabouts can be tracked meticulously. Higham hadn't counted on that when he began his smear campaign. In fact, on the very day when Highman had Errol "conspiring" in the Bahamas with the Windsors, the actor was, in fact, standing on a log across a stream in Chico. California, facing Alan Hale with a quarterstaff while William Keighly directed the meeting of Robin Hood and Little John for "The Adventures of...". And, as for "Dive Bomber", the Japanese ALREADY HAD their Pearl Harbor mockups built (courtesy of Honolulu spies)and were preparing for the raid WHILE "DIVE BOMBER" WAS IN PRODUCTION....AT SAN DIEGO...NOT PEARL HARBOR!!!!
Situations like this...CONNIVANCES....turned up everywhere in the Higham book. And the "documentation" he offered turned out to be edited out of context, and, in some cases, the blacked out names didn't relate to Flynn at all...Higham just CLAIMED they did. But originals obtained under the Freedom of Information Act proved the distortions here as well. And Dr. Erben? Well he WAS a German agent, but he only knew Flynn briefly, and ,interviewed before his death, he affirmed that Errol had NEVER been a German agent, that he...Erben...had used Flynn's celebrity to gain him access to people, but that Flynn himself never realized he was being used in this manner. It should also be noted that the Abwehr, under Adm. Wilhelm Canaris, worked secretly more AGAINST Hitler's Nazis than FOR them. aided in the assassination plots AGAINST Hitler, and, by war's end, had been disbanded and taken over by the SS and its leaders executed. In fact there is strong reason to believe Abwehr may have been half-connected to the British Secret Intelligence Service, MI6. So even if Flynn might have UNKNOWINGLY been "associated" with this ANTI-Nazi German intelligence organization, that might not have been such a bad thing after all!
As to the homosexual pedophile stuff, none other than Flynn's old arch-enemy BETTE DAVIS stepped forward to declare that a "crock". Said that sounded like Orry-Kelly malarkey, Orry-Kelly being a Warner's costumer in "the day". According to Davis, Kelly delighted in spreading nasty, vicious, hurtful rumors about people who "crossed him"...and Errol did that from time to time.
To have "Queen Bette" the Flynn-hater come to his defense was astounding enough, but then the OTHER shoe dropped. JOAN CRAWFORD, Bette Davis' OWN arch enemy, came out BACKING BETTE!!! Crawford, who'd once called Flynn "The most beautiful man who ever lived", said the gay stories sounded EXACTLY like something that would come out of Orry-Kelly; that if you'd ever worked at Warners you'd have picked up on it immediately.
An amazing happening. Bette Davis defending Errol Flynn and Joan Crawford backing her up. Shades of the Apocalypse.
Though now totally discredited among those who KNOW, many uninformed people still are under the impression this hog swill was true.It all needs to be set right. The DVD "Adventures of Errol Flynn" in this collection attacks the old tale, Tony Thomas in "Errol Flynn, The Spy Who Never Was", demolishes it handily, as does Flynn's stunt double Buster Wiles in "Errol & Me". The Walt Disney movie "The Rocketeer" unhappily plays with the smear job, featuring Timothy Dalton made up as Flynn (though called "Neville Sinclair") and casts him as the dastardly villain Charles Higham worked so to make him appear(and the "why" of it has never been learned). I am a fan of the "Rocketeer" movie but this aspect of it has always distressed me.
But it looks like Errol's turn is coming around again. This "Signature Collection" puts him center stage again and he deserves the limelight. "Elizabeth & Essex" lets him act, and "The Adventures of..." outlines his life. But "Captain Blood", "The Sea Hawk", "They Died With Their Boots On" and "Dodge City" show perfectly what it was he did...and how he did it...that let him charm America and the world.
on April 3, 2005
I have had the pleasure of getting a 'sneak peek' at the Errol Flynn Signature Collection, via a 'reviewer' friend of mine who was just sent an early copy.
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!
on March 21, 2005
It's great to see this set coming. Every movie is a winner and I hope it sells in high numbers. "The Charge Of The Light Brigade" where Flynn is in full hero mode and is the perfect bridge between "Captain Blood" and "The Adventures Of Robin Hood" and the moving "Dawn Patrol" have been passed over here and I can only hope that they are being held back for a Volume 2 Signature Collection. There are certainly enough good Flynn movies not yet on DVD to warrant a second collection: Gentleman Jim, Dive Bombers, Virginia City to name a few.
on July 27, 2005
Call me biased, but this set is proof (if any were needed) that in terms of sheer screen presence (what Billy Wilder used to call "flesh impact") Errol Flynn can have Mel Gibson, Russell Crowe, Eric Bana et al for breakfast: he is Australia's greatest film star.
In this set, even in the Western setting of Dodge City, the charm and charisma that allowed him to buckle swash more convincingly than anyone else is well to the fore. You can also see - in three of these films - how much sincere affection there was between Flynn and Olivia de Havilland. Her comments about him in the fine documentary - The Adventures of Errol Flynn - confirm what you see in their pictures together!
The transfers are significatntly better than their VHS counterparts and the extras are - as so often with Warners - well thought out and entertainingly presented. Being a fan of the bandleader/composer Johnny Green, it was a particular treat to see the short subject in which he's featured, as an extra on the Captain Blood disc.
on April 27, 2005
Warners gives you good value here: multiple titles at one low price, plus the TCM documentary that aired early in '05.
HOWEVER, it would have been nice if the color flicks ("Elizabeth and Essex" and "Dodge City") had been given the same loving restoration that Time-Warner bestowed on "The Adventures of Robin Hood." Both of these titles have color edging in various shots -- caused by uneven shrinkage of the three acetate negatives used in three-strip Technicolor. For "D.C. and "E & E" no such time, energy and moolah was wasted, so there are times when you think your vision is failing as you gaze at the blurry images.
Nevertheless, it's a good package. Let's just hope that next time they digitally tweak the color and delete the print dirt and scratches.
on August 26, 2005
This is a must-have for any true Errol Flynn admirer. The quality of the DVDs is very good (understanding that most of these films were made in the 30's), and being able to watch one of the greatest swashbucklers of all times when ever you need the fix, is great. The only dissappointment is that "The Adventures of Robin Hood" is not included, which I think is one of his greatest films (I did buy that separately). The service from Amazon was excellent and I received the item very quickly and in perfect condition.
The Adventures of Robin Hood Special Edition DVD that came out a couple of years ago was simply one of the greatest DVDs ever. But Flynn's films have been slow to come out on DVD and so it makes this set a veritable treasure chest for the dashing Flynn. The great thing is that Warner Bros. didn't go on the cheap and just throw these five films on disc...as with Robin Hood they are givig us a number of extras with the collector in mind. Again they have Leonard Maltin introducing each feature with the Warner Night at the Movies with short features and cartoons so you can simulate what it would have been like to go to the theater back in the era. This is really a great touch. Add to that each film has been re-mastered and looks fantastic. Also included is the outstanding new TCM documentary on Flynn. I had just seen this on TV a few weeks ago and it was just magnificent and features interviews with Olivia De Haviland, Flynn's daughter and former wives, and others who worked with the star. Absolutely fascinating!
Besides Robin Hood, my two favorite Flynn Films are Captain Blood & The Sea Hawk. In Captain Blood from 1935, Flynn plays Dr. Peter Blood, an English physician unjustly convicted of treason and sentenced to slavery in the West Indies. Relying on only courage and brains, he escapes from his captors and becomes the legendary pirate known as Captain Blood, a brilliant swordsman and seaman whose crew is comprised of several of his fellow former slaves. Olivia de Havilland plays Arabella Bishop, the dashing pirate captain's romantic interest (and niece of the evil plantation owner and slaver, Colonel Bishop, who is played by Lionel Atwill). Sparks fly between Captain Blood and Arabella as their tempestuous relationship builds, and the conflict between Blood and builds as well as the pirate captain and his crew start to not only believe that they can fight Colonel Bishop, but they can win . . . .
Basil Rathbone did his usual fine job as Flynn's rival (except for his attempt at a French accent!) Captain Levasseur. Also along is long time Flynn drinking buddy Alan Hale. The Young Olivia De Havilland, has never looked more beautiful, and you can see the chemistry between her and Flynn almost immediately. They would go on to star in seven more films together!!
The Sea Hawk, 1940 - Along with Captain Blood and The Adventures of Robin Hood, The Sea Hawk completes a grand trilogy of Flynn Swashbucklers and forever cemented his role as the king of that genre. Rousing action and grand battle scenes highlight this film as Flynn plays Captain Thorpe, an English privateer who is secretly given permission by Queen Elizabeth to attack Spanish ships in anticipation of war between the two countries. To the rest of the world, Thorpe is still a pirate, however.
The specatacular opening sequence has Thorpe and his crew capturing a Spanish Galleon and taking the booty back to England. Thorpe soon finds himself attracted to the daughter of Spain's new ambassador Dona Maria Alvarez de Cordoba played by Brenda Marshall, making for some fun scenes. But England's devious Lord Wolfingham is in league with the Spanish and helps set a trap for Thorpe and his crew, ultimately capturing them and chaining them aboard a Spanish ship. Thorpe and his crew must now free themselves and hope to get back to England to help rescue them from the Spanish attack.
Flora Robson is absolutely brilliant as Queen Elizabeth, capturing the look that we've always seen in paintings of that famous ruler. Flynn's good friend and drinking buddy Alan Hale again is along for the ride as first mate Carl Pitt. The chemistry between these two was always magnificent. The only real cast weak link was Henry Daniell as Lord Wolfingham. He simply could not compete with Basil Rathbone as Flynn's villianous foe.
The film was directed by Michael Curtiz, one of the finest directors of the 30's and 40's and who had already directed Flynn in Captain Blood, Charge of the Light Brigade, and The Adventures of Robin Hood. He and Flynn often clashed but there's no denying that Curtiz always got the best out of Flynn.
I don't think you can argue much with any of the films included in this collection although I personally would like to have seen "Charge of the Light Brigade", "The Prince and the Pauper" or "Objective Burma" over the "Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex" since I'm not a big Bette Davis fan. All in all this is simply a great colleciton of films from one of Hollywood's true legends.
on March 15, 2005
Being a big fan of Errol Flynn I couldn't wait till these came out on DVD. The only other Flynn titles I could get on DVD before this was "The Adventures of Robin Hood", "Burma", "Master of Ballantrae", and "Sante Fe Trail". Any fan of Flynn's or just rousing adventures will want this collection. Signature's collections are decently transferred. The movies "Sea Hawk" and "Captain Blood" to me are worth the price alone. These were two of his greatest movies. Fans won't be disappointed. Anyone that thinks they need colorized just doesn't appreciate these wonderful classic B&W movies and they don't deserve them. This set is magnificently restored to new quality. Probably better than they were ever seen in theater or television. All the extras included make it a set that any fan will have to have and most others would be happy to buy or get as a present. I was fascinated by the documentaries and commentaries about the movies and Errol Flynn. Each movie contains a Leonard Maltin intro, a Newsreel, Short Subject, and Cartoon for the year the movie was made. A couple even have an extra short with some music from a band of the era. I kid you not when I say these DVDs are the best restoration of old classics that I have seen yet. I highly recommend this series to anyone that enjoyed Errol Flynn or anyone that enjoys adventure or western movies. Two of the movies are in color, "The Private Lifes of Elizabeth and Essex" and "Dodge City". The other three are in black and white. They are all wonderful movies. It has been wonderful seeing these movies again with sharp picture and sound that I never saw when they were televised. Buy these for Mom or Dad since this is a magnificent gift and mothers and fathers days are just around the corner.
on February 1, 2006
I think this is a great set. The only thing that I really did not like was the selection of "THE PRIVATE LIVES OF ELIZABETH AND ESSEX ". I know that they released a deluxe "Robin Hood" dvd and that's why it's not in this collection, but I would have prefered that "The Dawn Patrol" had taken the place of "THE PRIVATE LIVES OF ELIZABETH AND ESSEX ." The transfer of the films to dvd is very well done and the special features are nice.
So I hope that volume 2 is even better, and if I was making the choice for volume 2 here are my picks.
1. The Dawn Patrol
2. The Charge of the Light Brigade
3. Gentleman Jim (Flynn's Personal Favorite)
4. Objective Burma! (Flynn's Second Personal Favorite)
5. Edge of Darkness
6. The Sun Also Rises