THE ERROL FLYNN SIGNATURE COLLECTION (WARNER HOME VIDEO) includes the following Flynn titles:

CAPTAIN BLOOD *** DODGE CITY *** THE SEA HAWK *** THE PRIVATE LIVES OF ELIZABETH AND ESSEX *** THEY DIED WITH THEIR BOOTS ON *** THE ADVENTURES OF ERROL FLYNN 


"Nothing ticks me off more than to hear some #!?#!!? ?!#hole disparage the enormous talent of Errol Flynn
. !?#damnit, that son-of-a-#!?!! could do anything! He could be funny, he could be dramatic, he could be heroic, he could be charming, he could be romantic, he could wear those ?!?#ing uncomfortable period clothes as if he was born in them, he had the grace of a gazelle , but most of all he could utter the most florid and ridiculous lines with complete !?#damn believability. To all those !?#!?# morons who put him down I say " !?#! you! He was the greatest !#?damn star the film industry ever produced ! Period!"" -------- Stewart Granger to Dick Dinman, 3/11/88 

But seriously, Mr. Granger, how do you REALLY feel about Errol Flynn? 

While some may reasonably debate Granger's passionate assertion that Flynn was "the greatest star the film industry ever produced" the five Flynn titles and documentary that comprise Warner's glorious new ERROL FLYNN SIGNATURE COLLECTION make it abundantly clear that no other film star was as much fun to watch nor could draw an audience into his always fantastic adventures with such flourish, such charm, such rascally humor, such roguishness, such romantic ardor and playfulness, and yes, such enormous natural acting  talent. Flynn indelibly embodied, as no other superstar has before or  since, the spirit of the devil-may-care adventurer that all of us who are young in heart would, in our wildest fantasies, like to be. And, as THE ADVENTURES OF ERROL FLYNN, the superb new documentary included in this vibrant collection conclusively proves: he was the real thing! 

CAPTAIN BLOOD (1935), director Michael Curtiz' spirited cinematic version of Rafael Sabatini's novel about a 17th-century physician turned pirate after escaping unjust imprisonment marked Flynn's debut in a starring role and left not the slightest doubt that, despite occasional evidence of his relative inexperience in certain scenes, a star like no other was most assuredly born. Thanks to Curtiz' expert guidance of a supporting cast that includes radiant Olivia DeHavilland (her first of eight films with Flynn), Basil Rathbone and Lionel Atwill, and a uncommonly bold and beautiful score by the legendary Erich Wolfgang Korngold (his first of five scores for a Flynn feature), this film's 119 minute running time seems to sail by in an instant. 

The entire film industry and even Errol Flynn were baffled when Warner's gave the strapping Australian swashbuckler the lead in their huge rootin'-shootin' Technicolor extravaganza DODGE CITY (1939) but Flynn, with characteristic nonchalance, was one of the few "foreigners" to succeed in the genre simply by being Flynn. Indeed the uniquely charismatic actor threw himself into the dusty proceedings with great zeal and in the process was able to succeed where such British stars as Ray Milland (CALIFORNIA, COPPER CANYON) and even Stewart Granger (THE LAST HUNT, GUN GLORY) would comparatively go down in flames when they donned spurs and chaps. DODGE CITY would prove to be so popular, in fact, that Flynn would appear in seven more Westerns, all the while playfully referring to himself as "the rich man's Roy Rogers." Without his participation DODGE CITY would be just another lavishly entertaining young boy's vision of the West. With him the trip to this fanciful and fantastic DODGE CITY becomes an utterly invigorating experience. 

In his autobiography MY WICKED, WICKED WAYS (1959) Flynn reveals the humiliations and ill-treatment he suffered during the filming of THE PRIVATE LIVES OF ELIZABETH AND ESSEX (1939) at the hands of a contemptuous leading lady (Bette Davis) who regarded him as nothing more than a talentless pretty boy. Perhaps the most inspiring revelation in the previously mentioned Flynn documentary included in this collection is DeHavilland's account of a decades-later screening of this scrumptiously-appointed Technicolor costume film for the benefit of Davis in which she at long last admitted to being wrong about Flynn's abilities and even dubbed his performance "marvelous". Just a cursory glance at this film should make anyone with even a rudimentary understanding of what constitutes fine film acting wonder why it took so long for Davis to come to her belated but entirely correct conclusion. It takes nothing away from the stellar quality of Davis' impersonation of Queen Elizabeth I to decare that Flynn's work here as her lover Lord Essex is absolutely on a par with hers and in fact is costume film acting of the very highest calibre and contributes mightily to the multitude of pleasures this beautiful Michael Curtiz-directed film offers, among which is a regal and rousing score by Korngold that applies the polish to what remains a glittering jewel of a film. 

What higher praise can one bestow on THE SEA HAWK (1940) than to declare without hesitation that this stirring account of the adventures of Capt. Geoffrey Thorpe (Flynn) who commandeers a 40-gun galleon, endures captivity, then boldly escapes to warn Elizabethan England of Spain's armada is Flynn's second greatest swashbuckler, bested only by THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD (available from Warners in the finest 3 Strip Technicolor dvd ever produced). This mammoth Curtiz-directed 
costume film is jam-packed with action-packed incidents of the most varied and thrilling sort, and the supporting cast, with the exception of the wan and pallid Brenda Marshall (calling Ms. DeHavilland!), allows Claude Rains and Henry Daniel to display their fiendishly entertaining villainous tendencies to great effect, all to the glorious strains of a remarkable a
nd resonant Korngold score. And Flynn very effectively subdues his mocking and rascally tendencies to believably create an uncommonly gallant, sensitive, unselfish and dedicated hero. No Flynn fan could possibly pass up this exuberant and endlessly exciting SEA HAWK. 

THEY DIED WITH THEIR BOOTS ON (1941), an insanely inaccurate account of the life and times of Gen. George Armstrong Custer (Flynn) manages to emerge, despite the almost comically ludicrous whitewashing of the central character, as possibly the most gloriously irresistible western fantasy ever created, thanks in no small part to the relentlessly rousing direction of Raoul Walsh, and the fact that it is in this film (their last together) that DeHavilland and Flynn deliver the most nuanced and indeed finest performances of their eight-film collaboration. Watching them relate to each other so beautifully in this particular film infuses this saga with an intimate poignancy that enriches the viewing experience to a fantastic degree--and not hurting matters one bit is an alternately stirring and wistfully romantic score by Max Steiner. 

All of the above Flynn flicks are properly presented in full-screen transfers and strong monaural sound. Of the black and white films the finest transfer by leaps and bounds is THEY DIED WITH THEIR BOOTS ON, which is infinitely superior to the previous laserdisc incarnation and the print recently seen on TCM. THE SEA HAWK transfer, while not quite as damage-free, is superior in sharpness, black levels and greyscale to the laserdisc, which also featured the sepia-tinted mid-section that was originally seen in first-run engagements. Not surprisingly, the oldest film of the lot CAPTAIN BLOOD, displays the most visual defects but looks sharper than the laserdisc. DODGE CITY is an excellent rendering of the 3 Strip Technicolor original as is ELIZABETH AND ESSEX though there appears to be an intermittent registration problem on the latter film which occasionally produces red halos that are particularly evident in some long shots. 

All the titles are available separately with the exception of THE ADVENTURES OF ERROL FLYNN, which is exclusive to the box set and is essential viewing for any Flynn fan. 

--DICK DINMAN

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