Monday, March 12, 2007

Captain Blood

Captain Blood is a 1935 black and white movie starring Errol Flynn. Branz rented it from the UCF library and demanded that we watch it, and after you read this plot line, you'll see why I didn't refuse.

Dr. Peter Blood (Errol Flynn, who was something of a pop culture icon in those days) is a physician who is wrongfully imprisoned for tending to the wounds of a rebel against King James' rule in 17th century England. After being sold into slavery with a ragtag group of rebels, the crew escapes slavery and turns to piracy, leading swashbuckling lives of adventure and excitement, perpetually on the run from the sadistic Colonel Bishop (Lionel Atwill, of Murder in the Zoo fame). Clocking in at just about two hours, this movie was WAY too long and the pacing was excruciatingly slow, but it must be taken into account that this was the way films were made back then. It took a full hour before there was any swashbuckling whatsoever, and that's the only reason that I wanted to see it.

Some of the action scenes (especially the sword fighting) look incredibly amateur and fail to stand the test of time, but later in the film when the pirates are firing cannons at other ships and boarding them to take over in a massive free-for-all, it actually gets pretty sweet. Heavy on the dialogue, Captain Blood is Errol Flynn's first leading role in film and his the start of an illustrious career of one of the most iconic actors of the 20th century. I'll take this opportunity to tell you what little I know of Errol Flynn, as he was quite the character back in the day. This guy was the Russell Crowe of the 30's and 40's. He was a heavy drinker, a womanizer, and he was known to rough people up when the situation called for it. He was also charged with statutory rape of TWO seventeen year old girls in 1942 (our old buddy Errol was 33 years old at the time); hilariously enough, a group banded together to support him and named themselves the American Boys Club for the Defense of Errol Flynn (ABCDEF). The charges were dropped and our hero went back to his decadent ways, increasing his legendary status as a ladies man and providing the basis for the phrase "In like Flynn." Known for hanging out with such studs as Humphrey Bogart and Peter Lorre, Flynn was living the good life. He was also "preposterously endowed" as legend has it, and the size of his package has been referenced in many modern pop culture mediums, including films, Looney Tunes cartoons, and books. Here's a quote of his I came across: "Any notion that a woman's mind is nobler, purer, higher, more decent, cleaner or anything else gentler or superior to a man is pure delusion." I think it's safe to say that he would have approved of the mantra "All Male, Just Like in the Workplace." This guy was a living legend. I really wish I could have been a part of that ABCDEF group.*

Captain Blood actually had a great deal of influence on the Pirates of the Carribean movies. As I was watching it, the similarities between the films became too many to ignore. Everything from loose storyline to specific places such as Tortuga and tactics such as loading the cannons with debris other than cannonballs in the huge naval battle at the end of the movie is clearly adapted for use in the Pirates movies. I'm sure this is the case for countless other films, but it was interesting for me to see a film that a current franchise so obviously paid homage to (especially since Captain Blood is really F-ing old).

I'm sure none of you will ever see this movie, and that's OK. You're not REALLY missing much, and Errol Flynn has been dead since 1959, so this isn't exactly modern stuff we're working with. In case you're jonesin' for a taste of pirate action, check out this 10 minute clip from the final battle at the end of the movie. There's an exceptional explosion at the 3:35 mark, and some acting that would make Keanu look like Brando. Until next time...

*(Note: While this writer does not emulate the lifestyle and intolerance of women that Errol so wondrously represented, I certainly appreciate his reckless abandon and predilection for excess - he was an icon on and off screen, and I respect that.


Juanita's Journal said...

One, you spent more time and thought on Errol Flynn's life than on the movie. Two, why would being a notorious womanizer be considered a sign that Flynn was intolerant of women?

Ben Pearson said...

I mentioned that I would be spending most of the article informing readers about the life and times of Mr. Flynn, and I posted a good portion of the movie in a video for you to watch yourself if you take the time.

Also, I suppose "intolerant of women" was an incorrect assesment of Errol's lifestyle. He just presumably objectified them (as represented by the case of underage sex and womanizing). In any case, I was just trying to say that I don't replicate that kind of behavior on a personal level.