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Captain Blood

USA 1935
produced by
Harry Joe Brown, Gordon Hollingshead, Hal B. Wallis (executive), Jack L. Warner (executive) for Cosmopolitan, Warner Brothers
directed by Michael Curtiz
starring Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Lionel Atwill, Basil Rathbone, Ross Alexander, Guy Kibbee, Henry Stephenson, Robert Barrat, Hobart Cavanaugh, Donald Meek, Jessie Ralph, Forrester Harvey, Frank McGlynn sr, Holmes Herbert, David Torrence, J. Carrol Naish, Pedro de Cordoba, George Hassell, Harry Cording, Leonard Mudie, Ivan F.Simpson, Stuart Casey, David Cavendish (as Dennis D.Auburn), Mary Forbes, E.E. Clive, Colin Kenny, Maude Leslie, Gardner James, Vernon Steele, Reginald Barlow
screenplay by Casey Robinson, based on the novel by Rafael Sabatini, music by Erich Wolfgang Korngold

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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England, the 1700's: Peter Blood (Errol Flynn), a former adventurer, wants nothing but a quiet life, and wants to atone for the sins he might have committed while travelling the world by having become a physician, healing whoever needs healing. That gets him into trouble when he treats a rebel against King James II (Vernon Steele), who presently has fallen out of favour with many of his subjects. Blood is condemned to a hanging with many of the rebels against the kind, but on one of the king's whims, they are all sent to Jamaica as slaves instead. Once there, Blood and his friends are soon bought by Colonel Bishop (Lionel Atwill), and since Blood has caught the attention of Bishop's niece Arabella (Olivia de Havilland), he is soon made the personal physician of the local gouvernor (George Hassell) and allowed to move relatively freely on the island. Still, Blood doesn't forget his friends, and thus he uses his relative freedom to get his hands on a ship for them all to escape. Then the Spanish attack the island and sink Blood's ship ... which enrages him and his fellow slaves to such an extent that they board and take over the attacking Spanish boat, thisw way defeating the Spaniards. After they have gotten their hands on a ship, they leave Jamaica to become pirates ... but with a code of honour.

For some reason, Blood teams up with French pirate Levasseur (Basil Rathbone), who even agrees to follow Blood's code of honour, but soon enough, Levasseur proves to be a right little scoundrel - and then, after attacking a British vessel without first confering with Blood, he takes captive Arabella and one of the King's emmissary's, Willoughby (Henry Stephenson). Naturally, Blood has long fallen in love with Arabella, and now he fights for her and her honour, and kills Levasseur in a fencing duel.

Even though he has risked his life for her, Arabella resents Blood (at least she pretends to), so he agrees to return her to Jamaica, even if that means walking into a trap as Colonel Bishop, the new gouvernor of the island, is sure to await Blood and his crew, prepared to kill on sight. Of course, when Blood and crew approach Jamaica, they find the island under attack from two French battleships with Bishop's defense lines nowhere in sight - he has gone off pirate-hunting. Blood is prepared to turn and leave Jamaica to its fate, but this is when Willoughby tells him that James II is no longer king and Blood and his men are pardoned by the new king should they be willing to enter the Royal Navy - which all of them do at the drop of a hat, and they attack and defeat the French in no time, even if it means losing their own ship ... and in the end, Blood is made the gouvernor of Jamaica, with Bishop, upon his return, being left at his mercy ...

 

An escapist pirate flick that is about as free of historical accuracies as you might have come to expect, and it's pretty much as cheesy as it is predictable - but all of this are the genre's inherent qualities rather than its shortcomings, at least to a point, right?

The one aspect where Captain Blood really seems to fail is providing a good lead villain, and that's despite having both Basil Rathbone and Lionel Atwill in the cast - but Rathbone's screentime is all too brief, and he is killed in a fencing duel (his only one in the film) all too soon, and Atwill is kept out of the picture for much too long to create any sort of real menace. Now if one of these actors was given a bigger, meatier role, this one could have been a great genre piece, but as it is, it might still be escapist fun but nothing out of the ordinary.

At least it has a great final sea battle though, but this one was apparently lifted from the 1924 silent film The Sea Hawk.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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Tales to Chill
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On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide
WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
starring
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD