Friday, January 26, 2007

CAPTAIN BLOOD (Warner Bros. 1935) Warner Home Video

Captain Blood (1935) gets the nod for launching Errol Flynn’s enduring big screen persona as the epic hero in tights. Not that anyone at Warner Bros. anticipated the fervor of sexual tension such a film would ultimately generate. In fact, Jack Warner originally wanted stoic British pretty boy, Robert Donat for the lead. And even after it became apparent that Donat was a no show, the Warner brass next turned to stock player Brian Aherne to take his place. But, as luck would have it, Aherne turned the part down.

As far as plot is concerned, this one’s a rollicking trollop of easy virtue made pure by the love of a good woman. After tending to the wounds of a traitor to the monarchy, Dr. Peter Blood (Flynn) is wrongfully convicted of treason and sentenced to death. But a last minute reprieve has him shipped into slavery at Port Royal. There the sultry Arabella Bishop (Olivia DeHavilland) purchases him for a mere twenty pounds. Aside: I suspect that most women in the audience would have paid twenty million for a piece of Errol.

But an escape plan concocted by Flynn and his accomplice goes awry when a battle ensues and the vessel full of convicts is sunk. They manage to swim to a nearby Spanish galleon, take over the crew and hence, the legend of Capt. Blood is born.

Blood’s success as a stock and trade terrorist of the high seas takes an unexpected turn when Arabella is discovered to be the prisoner of a rival sea pirate. With his feelings of strange indebtedness mounting, Blood launches a full scale assault, rescues Arabella and returns to Port Royal. But wait, don’t touch that dial yet. Port Royal is losing a bitter war to the French, leaving Blood no choice but to go to work and fight on the side of the British once again.

Can you say ‘royal pardon?’…I know you can.

Screenwriter Casey Robinson ably adapted Rafael Sabitini’s swashbuckler for the big screen, while director Michael Curtiz keeps both the action and the melodrama moving at breakneck speeds. The battle sequences are probably among the most thrilling you are likely to see.

Warner Home Video's DVD is rather middle of the road. Although film grain is often obvious, the gray scale has been rendered with deep, solid blacks and very clean whites. Some fading is obvious during scene transitions. But it is remarkable how much dirt, grain and scratches are persistently present throughout this transfer. The audio has been restored and is presented at an adequate listening level. There are NO extras.

FILM RATING (out of 5 - 5 being the best)



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