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MOVIE INFO

Director:
Michael Curtiz
Cast:
Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Lionel Atwill, Basil Rathbone, Ross Alexander, Guy Kibbee, Henry Stephenson, Robert Barrat, Hobart Cavanaugh
Writing Credits:
Rafael Sabatini (novel), Casey Robinson

Tagline:
His sword carved his name across the continents - and his glory across the seas!

Synopsis:
This is the story of Dr. Peter Blood, and english surgeon who is sold into slavery in the West Indies after treating the leader of the rebellion against King James II. Bought by the beautiful Arabella, Blood leads a revolt with his fellow prisoners and escapes. Seeking retribution, he turns his fellow escapees into a private crew with himself as the leader - Captain Blood. Thrilling sea battles and exhilarating scenery highlights this Best Picture Oscar nominee that made stars out of Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland.

Box Office:
Budget
$1.2 million.

MPAA:
Rated NR

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Fullscreen 1.33:1
Audio:
English Monaural
French Monaural
Subtitles:
English
French
Spanish
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 119 min.
Price: $19.97
Release Date: 4/19/2005

Bonus:
• “Warner Night at the Movies”
• “Captain Blood: A Swashbuckler Is Born” Documentary
• 1937 Radio Show
• Trailer


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RELATED REVIEWS


Captain Blood (1935)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (April 25, 2005)

Perhaps the quintessential pirate flick, 1935’s Captain Blood opens in England circa 1685. We learn that a battle rages over a controversy related to the possessor of the throne; King James (Vernon Steele) resides there, but rebels fight against his reign. Although Dr. Peter Blood (Errol Flynn) sits out the war, he gets arrested by the king’s minions when he tries to heal a rebel.

Despite his pleas of innocence, Blood receives the same punishment as everyone else, and a judge sentences him to hang. However, the king needs slaves to toil in the Caribbean colony of Port Royal, so Blood and his cohorts get sent there instead of to the gallows.

When the men arrive, they’re sold off to the highest bidder. For many, this will mean a horrible stint in the mines, but some get lucky and are purchased by local aristocrat Colonel Bishop (Lionel Atwill). His winsome niece Arabella (Olivia de Havilland) urges the Colonel to add the insolent Blood to his roster. When he refuses, she buys him for herself.

Eventually this leads Blood to a cushy position. Port Royal’s Governor (Henry Stephenson) has a persistent case of gout that causes him foot problems, and his doctors can’t help him. Arabella recommends that the Governor give Blood a shot, and our hero quickly resolves the issue.

This puts him in favor with the Governor but inspires the irritation of the deposed doctors, as they now have no work. Blood uses this to his advantage: he conspires to get them to help him and his fellow slaves escape on a ship, as his departure will ensure work for them. They agree and Blood’s plot takes root.

Before Blood and his cohorts can escape, however, Spanish ships attack Port Royal and destroy their boat. Not one to be stopped that easily, Blood leads his men on an attack of the Spaniards. They commandeer their own vessel and repulse the aggressors. Even though this seems to endear them to Bishop, they spurn his accommodations and head out on their own.

From there Blood leads his men to become the most successful pirates on the seas. We watch as their treasure grows and as other developments occur. Bishop eventually gets the command to stop them, and that creates a major plot thread. Inevitably, Blood re-encounters Arabella along the way, a move that spurs romantic involvement.

Perhaps the strongest aspect of Blood stems from Flynn’s terrific performance as the lead. Rather than create a dull, simplistic hero, he makes Blood a surprisingly three-dimensional personality. He handles the character’s various sides with aplomb, as he demonstrates charm and lightness when necessary and also evokes Blood’s grim determination and ethics at the right times. Flynn brings out a nice honest performance that lacks the expected hamminess.

Blood also prospers during many of its action sequences. Modern audiences can find this sort of material tough to take when seen in old flicks simply because we’re accustomed to a certain level of technical slickness. Clearly a movie from 1935 can’t compete with the fabulous effects of a film from 2005, so something like Blood runs the risk of looking extremely cheesy.

For the most part, the picture avoids those pitfalls. Yes, many of the boats are obviously models, but the technical crudity doesn’t impair our enjoyment of the scenes. The film’s climax presents a truly memorable and impressive battle that could scarcely fare better even with the best production values available today.

Unfortunately, sequences such as that are rare in Blood, and that highlights the movie’s main problem. This is an extremely chatty flick, and we don’t often get to see the characters in action. We usually encounter the participants before or after their activities. This means that Blood and his men talk about their battles and plundering but we rarely actually observe these actions.

That factor makes Blood slow-going at times. Yeah, it includes enough visceral sequences to ensure we don’t fall asleep, but the abundance of discussion and relative paucity of action causes the flick to drag. These are pirates, for God’s sake - don’t they do anything than yammer?

Even with these problems, I still like Captain Blood. When action occurs, it succeeds, and enough of the rest of the flick fares well to make it enjoyable.


The DVD Grades: Picture C+/ Audio B-/ Bonus B-

Captain Blood appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Despite some periodic issues, Blood mainly looked fine for its age.

Sharpness almost always came across well. Some images periodically were a bit fuzzy and soft. However, the majority of the flick was concise and well defined. No real problems with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and I discerned no signs of edge enhancement.

For a 70-year-old film, I expected concerns with print flaws, but these remained acceptably modest. Light grain showed up, and instances of specks, streaks, scratches, marks, and spots occurred, but given the flick’s age, these stayed with acceptable levels. Dancing white lines also popped up sporadically, and some scenes fared worse than others; a few became pretty dirty. Despite those, the source defects didn’t cause tremendous distractions.

Black levels consistently seemed fine. Contrast was usually clean and distinctive, and low-light shots demonstrated good definition. Shadows appeared fairly smooth and easily discernible. The film created enough ugly pieces to lower my grade to a “C+”, but I still felt impressed by this generally solid image.

Captain Blood presented a monaural soundtrack that seemed fairly average for its era. The audio was acceptably clean but somewhat shrill and thin. Dialogue remained intelligible but didn’t present much definition and could be rather brittle. The lines lacked natural tones, but they seemed perfectly adequate for their era. Effects showed a little distortion but usually sounded reasonably clean and tight. They lacked range but appeared decent across the board. Music followed suit, as the score was bright and clear but somewhat too bright and harsh. Very little background noise interfered with the proceedings. Overall, Blood presented decent but unexceptional audio.

When we look at the DVD’s extras, we start with a new featurette. Captain Blood: A Swashbuckler Is Born fills 22 minutes and 58 seconds. It offers the usual mix of movie clips, archival materials, and interviews. We hear from film historian Rudy Behlmer, UC-Davis film professor Lincoln D. Hurst, film historian Robert Osborne, author Bob Thomas, conductor John Mauceri, and sword master/choreographer Tim Weske.

The program covers the climate in Hollywood in the Thirties and the rising prevalence of costume epics, the origins of Blood and its adaptation, casting and the careers of the actors prior to Blood, notes about director Michael Curtiz, shooting Blood and its performances, sets and locations, sword fights, the score and its composer, and reactions to the film. Despite its brevity, “Born” packs a good assortment of details connected to the project. It doesn’t substitute for a commentary, but it goes over the production well and proves both entertaining and informative.

In addition to the movie’s theatrical trailer, we find a February 22, 1937 Lux Radio Theater Broadcast. It lasts 58 minutes and 33 seconds as it presents another version of Captain Blood. The show features performances from movie castmembers Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Basil Rathbone and Henry Stephenson.

To showcase the presence of de Havilland, this adaptation cuts out much of the pirate action and favors the romance between Blood and Arabella. It starts with Blood’s trial and concentrates on sequences between the two leads. This makes sense, and not just because the producers wanted to maximize de Havilland’s airtime. In addition, the romantic elements cross over to radio better than battles. This program offers a nice component for the DVD; I can’t call it a scintillating listen, but it’s a cool extra.

A creative and fun addition to the set, Warner Night at the Movies attempts to replicate the cinematic experience circa 1935. As explained via a three-minute and five-second introduction from Leonard Maltin, this feature includes a trailer for A Midsummer Night’s Dream, a flick from the same era as Blood, plus a period newsreel, an animated short called Billboard Antics and two live-action shorts: Johnny Green and His Orchestra and All-American Drawback. These are the kinds of pieces that might have preceded a theatrical showing of Blood, so if you activate this feature, you get an attempt to duplicate a night at the cinema. I like this program and think it’s quite clever. Use the “Play All” option to run each of these features and then automatically launch into Blood.

Captain Blood shows its age, and the movie never consistently fires on all cylinders. Nonetheless, it boasts a fine lead performance from Errol Flynn plus just enough action to make it entertaining. The DVD offers pretty average picture and audio for a movie of this one’s age, and it also includes a smattering of worthwhile extras. Quite possibly the most famous pirate flick of all, Blood deserves a look.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.6666 Stars Number of Votes: 12
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