Oscar Nominations for Best Director, Best Music Score, Best Picture, Best Sound, and Best Writing.
"Captain Blood" may be a 70 year-old film, but it's still the apex of all swashbuckling epics. Beautifully scripted, the action scenes and miniature effects maintain a startling level of energy, and director Michael Curtiz balanced his camera so every supporting character is never forgotten during the film's multiple battle scenes within its two hour running time.
Errol Flynn shot to stardom as the colourful Captain Blood, and though his acting chops were still a bit rough, the actor's innate charisma imbues the film with a special kind of excitement - the clean features and slight naivete of Flynn's beaming face perfectly suit the plight of his once straight-laced character, particularly when he becomes the leader of needy misfits and discovers youthful ebullience in being a party-happy pirate. (Of course, slimy Basil Rathbone almost ruins things, but the brief and uneasy allegiance with Flynn means we're later treated to some grand fencing between the lithe stars.)
Like "Mutiny on the Bounty," the surviving print shows some wear at times, and there's heavier grain and occasional dirt from the early optical effects (namely the dissolves between scenes), but it all becomes secondary once the story kicks into gear. The original mono mix is well balanced, and Erich Wolfgang Korngold's rousing score marked him as the studio's only choice for epics and prestige films (until Max Steiner did real good on "Gone with the Wind," and moved over to Warner Bros.).
The DVD is filled with plenty of vintage goodies, including a newsreel, the cute cartoon "Billboard Frolics" (where characters in billboard ads come to life), and two unique shorts: veteran composer Johnny Green (co-composer of "Easy Come, Easy Go") starring in his own peppy little musical, bringing life to a group of droopy resort vacationers; and Edgar Bergen and his alter ego/dummy, Charlie McCarthy, in "All-American Drawback." Bergen (actress Candice Bergen's pop) plays best friend and truant officer to dummy and football star McCarthy, and tries to keep Charlie's wooden eyes and curious fingers off the pretty coeds, so the dummy can graduate from university. It's a rather surreal short, with McCarthy playing football and flirting with the women, while real human Bergen never gets the girl. Both Bergen and McCarthy would enjoy a long-running radio show, and their film appearances were generally restricted to a few shorts, cameos, variety features, and the oddball feature film.
The DVD also contains a vintage Lux Radio Theatre broadcast from 1937 (with rather heavy compression and low bit rate, but chapter-indexed), starring Flynn, de Havilland, Rathbone, Henry Stephenson, and Donald Crisp, and is hosted by Herbert Marshall and his magnificent voice.
The making-of featurette has a quartet of historians - Rudy Behlmer, Robert Osborne, Bob Thomas, and Dr. Lincoln D. Hurst - economically tracing the popularity of the swashbuckling genre, the film's casting, the amusing friction between director Curtiz and executive producer Hal B. Wallace, Flynn's trembling during the initial weeks of filming, and Korngold's first original film score.
Flynn and de Havilland would re-team in seven more films, and the Captain Blood character would reappear in one of the most curious film footnotes, with Sean Flynn (Errol's actual son) making his own starring debut in "Son of Captain Blood," in 1962.
This Warner Bros title is available as part of the “Errol Flynn Signature Collection” that includes “Captain Blood,” “The Sea Hawk,” “They Died With Their Boots On,” “The Private Lives Of Elizabeth And Essex,” and “Dodge City” and a bonus documentary disc “The Adventures Of Errol Flynn.”
© 2005 Mark R. Hasan