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CAPTAIN BLOOD (director: Michael Curtiz; screenwriters: Casey Robinson/the book by Rafael Sabatini; cinematographers: Ernest Haller/Hal Mohr; editor: George J. Amy; music: Erich Wolfgang Korngold; cast: Errol Flynn (Captain Peter Blood), Olivia de Havilland (Arabella Bishop), Lionel Atwill (Col. Bishop), Basil Rathbone (Capt. Levasseur), Ross Alexander (Jeremy Pitt), Guy Kibbee (Hagthorpe), Henry Stephenson (Lord Willoughby), Robert H. Barrat (Wolverstone), George Hassell (Governor), Ross Alexander (Pitt); Runtime: 118; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Harry Joe Brown/Ahsi N. Eslid; Warner Brothers; 1935)
One of the better swashbucklers.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

One of the better swashbucklers. This adventure tale launched the career of the 25-year-oldTasmania-born Errol Flynn. It was Flynn’s first starring role. He got the part when Robert Donat dropped out of the picture and the Warner Brothers’ studio gambled on a fresh face. The two co-stars, Flynn and the 19-year-old Tokyo-born Olivia de Havilland, would go on to be in seven more films together, where she was cast mostly as the sweet heroine and he as the bold adventurer. “Blood” was directed with his usual efficiency by the Hungarian-born Michael Curtiz (“Casablanca”), an emigre who served the Hollywood studio system with distinction in his long career. Captain Blood was nominated for two Academy Awards, Best Picture and Best Sound. It was straightforwardly adapted from the novel by Rafael Sabatini and is a remake of the1923 silent. It is set during the tyrannical reign of King James II. Warner Brothers made it as a response to MGM’s acclaimed smash box-office hit of 1935 Mutiny on the Bounty.

Though an exciting watch and magnificently photographed and accurately depicted, the film had some drawbacks such as its formulaic plot was all too familiar, the characters all lacked depth, it could have used more swordplay, it was too talkative for a thriller and its crude attempts at humor were hardly amusing.

Errol Flynn is cast as young Dr. Peter Blood in 1685, at the time of the Catholic king. As an Irish physician he treats a wounded rebel and is unjustly convicted of treason and sentenced to slavery in the West Indies. He is purchased by the niece, Arabella Bishop (Olivia de Havilland), of the cruel Colonel Bishop (Atwill), who sent him to the mines to die for talking back to him in a nasty tone. Blood then successfully treats the comically gout-ridden governor (George Hassell), and thereby escapes returning to the fields as he becomes a house slave. When a Spanish ship attacks Jamaica, Blood leads the slaves in a successful revolt and takes command of the ship. He becomes a feared Caribbean pirate known as Captain Blood, as he takes with him a fiercely loyal crew of former slaves including Pitt (Ross Alexander) and Hagthorpe (Guy Kibbee). At sea after much success on his own as a plunderer, Blood makes an ill-advised partnership with the sinister French pirate Levasseur (Basil Rathbone). When Levasseur captures an English ship carrying Arabella and the sympathetic Lord Willoughby (Henry Stephenson), Blood chooses Arabella over Levasseur and fights a winning duel over her. Blood goes on to become legit when King James is overthrown by William of Orange. He is given a commission and as a reward for his courage against the Spanish Main he is appointed governor of Jamaica, and Arabella is by his side.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”