Combustible Celluloid
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With: Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Lionel Atwill, Basil Rathbone, Ross Alexander, Guy Kibbee, Henry Stephenson, Robert Barrat, Hobart Cavanaugh, Donald Meek, Jessie Ralph, Forrester Harvey, Frank McGlynn Sr., Holmes Herbert, David Torrence
Written by: Casey Robinson, based on a novel by Rafael Sabatini
Directed by: Michael Curtiz
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Running Time: 119
Date: 12/19/1935

Captain Blood (1935)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Pirate Light

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Errol Flynn was a last-minute replacement for the lead role in this low-budget adventure film; little did anyone know that he would go on to become a huge star, and the film itself a benchmark in the pirate genre, influencing hundreds of adventure films for decades to come. It's hard to underestimate its impact at the time, but it's still very effective to this day. Screenwriter Casey Robinson adapted the 1922 novel by Rafael Sabatini and compressed an enormous amount of plot into a fast-moving, two-hour running time. In the late 17th century, Doctor Peter Blood (Flynn) prefers to stay out of warfare and politics, but when he agrees to treat a wounded rebel, he's arrested and tried for treason against King James II. He is sold as a slave and shares several meet-cutes with the governor's daughter Arabella Bishop (Olivia de Havilland). He eventually escapes, becoming the infamous high-seas pirate of the title. He runs a tight ship with iron-clad rules, but he eventually enters into an unwise partnership with a French pirate, Levasseur (Basil Rathbone). Levasseur captures an English ship with Blood's beloved on board. He chooses the girl over the pirate, but can they ever be together? Director Michael Curtiz has never been considered an auteur director, mainly because he was a Warner Bros. company man, but it's amazing what he was able to do here with stock footage and limited sets. The film's enormous success launched him, as well as Flynn and de Havilland, forever into the ranks of the A-list. The three of them made six more films together (including the classic The Adventures of Robin Hood), and Curtiz and Flynn made an additional five more. Captain Blood was nominated for five Oscars, including Best Director and Best Picture. If that's not enough, one of the all-time greatest movie composers, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, made his debut with the rousing score.

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