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Michael Curtiz
Errol Flynn, Brenda Marshall, Claude Rains
Writing Credits:
Howard Koch, Seton I. Miller

Buccaneer Geoffrey Thorpe leads British attacks on the Spanish armada.
Rated NR.

Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
English DTS-HD MA Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 127 min.
Price: $21.99
Release Date: 12/18/2018

• “Warner Night at the Movies”
• “Flynn in Action” Featurette
• Trailer


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The Sea Hawk [Blu-Ray] (1940)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 2, 2019)

From the same crew behind 1935’s Captain Blood and 1938’s Adventures of Robin Hood, 1940’s The Sea Hawk takes us back to the 16th century. Captain Geoffrey Thorpe (Errol Flynn) commands a galleon that tries to keep shipping lanes open for Queen Elizabeth’s (Flora Robson) England.

When Thorpe appears to act rashly against the Spanish, Queen Elizabeth reacts negatively, as she fears war. After this, Thorpe ends up on a mission that leads to a mix of perils.

Because I liked the prior collaborations between Flynn and director Michael Curtiz, I went into Hawk with reasonably high expectations. Throw in the always impressive Claude Rains as the Spanish ambassador and I figured Hawk would offer a winner.

Alas, this doesn’t prove accurate. While Hawk comes to life at times, too much of the film feels sluggish and dull.

Not that it starts that way, as Hawk launches with a major sea battle. We get enough action and excitement to pack into the climax of most movies, an astonishing feat given this sequence opens the film.

And Hawk comes with plenty of drama during its final third as well. Thorpe and company endure hardships they need to overcome, and these lead us toward a vivid finale with all the swash anyone could hope to buckle.

The problem comes between those two poles, as much of the middle of Hawk seems mushy and slow. Do I feel surprised that the film tosses out a romance, here between Thorpe and the Spanish ambassador’s niece Doña Maria (Brenda Marshall)?

No, but that doesn’t make their turgid swooning any more palatable. The movie grinds to a halt whenever it needs Thorpe and Maria to canoodle, and these sequences become a drag.

The film’s midsection also devotes too much time to tedious political discussions. We find ourselves bogged down in unnecessary exposition and these segments cause further boredom that even Claude Rains can’t alleviate.

Despite these flaws, Hawk still manages enough action and excitement to maintain our attention. However, that sleepy midsection causes problems that keep it from the high level of its Curtiz/Flynn siblings.

The Disc Grades: Picture B/ Audio B-/ Bonus C

The Sea Hawk appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.37:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Despite a few anomalies, this was largely a strong presentation.

In general, sharpness satisfied, as the movie usually appeared well-defined. Some softness popped up for the occasional shot – mainly due to the use of opticals/effects - but the majority of the flick boasted nice delineation.

Shimmering and jaggies remained absent, and edge haloes also failed to appear. The movie’s grain structure felt natural, and print flaws didn’t mar the proceedings.

Blacks appeared deep and dark, and contrast came across well. Scenes set in Panama opted for a sepia tone, and that shading appeared well-rendered.

Shadows generally held up nicely, though a few shots felt a little too bright. While the image didn’t excel, it still gave us a positive transfer.

Similar thoughts greeted the sturdy DTS-HD MA monaural soundtrack of Hawk, as it held up nicely over the decades. Speech could seem a bit brittle at times, but lines were intelligible and concise enough.

Music and effects displayed the expected restricted dynamic range, but they showed acceptable clarity and didn’t suffer from distortion. The mix lacked pops, clicks, hum, or other defects. This was a more than competent track for a movie from 1940.

A creative and fun addition to the set, Warner Night at the Movies attempts to replicate the cinematic experience circa 1940. After an introduction from critic Leonard Maltin, this feature includes a preview for Virginia City - a flick from the same era as Hawk - plus a period newsreel and two shorts.

These are the kinds of pieces that might have preceded a theatrical showing of Hawk, so if you activate this feature, you get an attempt to duplicate a night at the cinema. With “Night” on, you go through all these components and then head straight into the movie. I like this program and think it’s quite clever.

In addition to the film’s trailer, we find a featurette called Flynn in Action. It runs 17 minutes, 34 seconds and includes comments from film professor Lincoln D. Hurst, film historians Robert Osborne and Rudy Behlmer, sword master/choreographer Tim Weske and composer John Mauceri.

“Action” looks at the source and this project’s path to the screen, sets, cast and crew, performances and action, music and photography. This becomes a fairly efficient look at various production topics.

At its best, The Sea Hawk boasts thrills and daring action. Unfortunately, it sags too much for its middle hour and these segments lessen its overall level of success. The Blu-ray brings largely positive picture and audio as well as a few decent supplements. Sea Hawk does some things right but it falters a little more than I’d like.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4 Stars Number of Votes: 3
0 3:
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