Captain Blood (1935)

“I’ve resented you because you’re beautiful, and I’m a slave. Do you understand that?”

Synopsis:
When a physician (Errol Flynn) in 17th century England is convicted of conspiracy against the crown after tending to a wounded rebel, he and others are sent to work as slaves in an American colony overseen by a cruel governor (Lionel Atwill) whose beautiful niece (Olivia de Havilland) purchases Flynn, much to Flynn’s chagrin. Flynn and his men eventually become pirates on the high seas, partnering with a captain (Basil Rathbone) who takes de Havilland as a hostage — but will Flynn rescue her, or let his resentment continue to drive a wedge through their nascent cross-class romance?

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary writes that this “rousing adaptation of Rafael Sabatini’s novel about a 17th century English pirate made a star of Errol Flynn, who made the most of his first lead role”, and notes that it “boasts of marvelous action sequences; extremely intelligent dialogue; spirited direction by Michael Curtiz; and an earnest, strong performance by Flynn.” He adds that a highlight of the film is the “Flynn-Basil Rathbone swordfight-to-the-death on a rocky beach, during which the opponents smile constantly” — and that the inaugural on-screen pairing of beautiful young de Havilland and Flynn represents “one of the cinema’s truly wonderful romantic teams”. Indeed, fans of swashbuckling romantic dramas will find much to enjoy here, though I’ll admit it’s not a personal favorite: I’m not thrilled by the buffoonish nobility, Rathbone’s faux-French accent, or Flynn’s hairstyle (!). In the film’s favor are marvelous cinematography (by Ernest Haller and Hal Mohr), rousing action scenes (Curtiz is indeed masterful), and Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s “excellent” debut score. As a curiosity, listen for Blood’s surprisingly forthright and graphic proclamation that “If a man molest a woman captive against her will, he, too, shall receive the same punishment.”

Note: Sadly, supporting character Ross Alexander — who plays Jeremy, the ship’s navigator — had a tragic (closeted gay) personal life and killed himself just after this film was made.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Atmospheric cinematography


  • Expertly directed combat scenes


  • Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s score

Must See?
Yes, once, for its historical importance.

Categories

(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)

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2 Responses to “Captain Blood (1935)”

  1. First viewing – a once-must, for Curtiz’s typically sturdy direction, the cinematography (coupled with some terrific editing), and for Korngold’s score.

    As my viewing reached its end, I found myself thinking this is an admirable and accomplished piece of work – even if, as agreed on above, “it’s not a personal favorite”. The storytelling is fine and engaging (there’s much to appreciate in the script) and the cast does solid work.

    But I did remain mostly captured by how the film itself was put together – thanks to the three elements I first mentioned. While this may not be seen as a great film in the library of classics, it certainly does fulfill all of the basics of traditional Hollywood filmmaking and, as such, is worthy of attention.

  2. Obviously a must as a classic and one of Flynn’s earliest hits.

    Florid, robust action melodrama.

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