Monday, March 10, 2008

ADVENTURES OF DON JUAN (Warner Bros. 1948) Warner Home Video

By 1948, Errol Flynn’s personal ‘affairs’ were public knowledge – what with a narrow escape from a rape conviction and rumors of alcohol and drug addiction. Although Flynn’s reputation as a carouser may have helped what little box office the Adventures of Don Juan (1948) did – not even director Vincent Sherman’s tongue-in-cheek approach to the subject material could conceal the ravages of all that hard partying, painfully visible in every frame.

In fact, Flynn’s take on the title character was rather par for the course and built almost entirely on his own reputation for wine and women. It must have seemed like a project handmade for Flynn. Yet, he failed to bring his usual sprite execution to the swordplay and lacked something of his usual devil-may-care  during the lovemaking scenes opposite Viveca Lindfors. Even more detrimental, in an effort to keep costs down, Warner Bros. had excised whole portions of stock footage from The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) and The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939) – the latter creating a gross error in continuity in The Adventures of Don Juan.

During a processional march Don Juan is mistaken as a Duke en route to the palace of the King (Romney Brent) and Queen Margaret (Viveca Lindfors) Flynn is briefly, though quite obviously, glimpsed astride his horse in the full regalia he wore for ‘Elizabeth and Essex’ before director Sherman cuts away to reveal Flynn wearing an entirely different uniform for this movie.

Plot wise, the George Oppenheimer-Harry Kurnitz screenplay had Don Juan rescuing the King and Queen from treacherous plotting by Duke de Lorca (Robert Douglas – largely left sneering in half shadow). Though generic and rather pointless, the film had some tender humor between Don Juan and the simpering Donna Elena (Ann Rutherford). Alan Hale was in it too, playing – what else – Juan’s ever-faithful sidekick, Leporello.

A minor effort all around, the film is immeasurably fleshed out by a few elephantine sets and some minor swashbuckling. Unfortunately for all concerned, Adventures of Don Juan was not a mega hit. Flynn’s failings aside, the film did better business in Europe where crossed sword quickies still held wide appeal. But in America tastes for this sort of costume comedy/melodrama were already a thing of the past. As such the film was largely panned by critics and dismissed by audiences. Its tepid returns resulted in budgetary restrictions on subsequent Flynn’s films and the eventual cancellation of his contract.

Warner Home Video’s DVD is disappointing. Colors are, on the whole, fully saturated, vibrant and bold. The image is generally crisp, with a few minor instances of mis-registration. Flesh tones are orange, but passable. Contrast levels are ideally realized. Blacks are deep and solid. Whites are clean. Age related artifacts are present. Edge enhancement renders the credit sequence and opening prologue an unstable mess.

The audio is mono but adequate for this presentation. Extras include Warner Night at the Movies – minus Leonard Maltin’s participation, an audio commentary from Sherman and Rudy Behlmer, and several vintage short subjects.

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



No comments: