(1938) directors Michael Curtiz, William Keighley
My latest experiment with film-watching with the kids: Errol Flynn. I’d never seen this film before either, so outside of knowing that it was duly considered a classic, I reckoned that this might be a risk of sorts, whether or not they’d like it. I figured with the sword-fighting and historical angle that Felix might be into it, but I was less sure about Clara. Oddly enough, when it was over, Clara declared that it was the 2nd best movie that we’d watched, right after Fantasia (1940).
For me, after watching Doctor X (1932), I’m making a point to catch up on my Michael Curtiz films. But quite frankly, I wanted to get a chance to see these swashbuckling adventures for myself.
Shot in Technicolor, the cast is clad in brightly colored outfits, and the whole thing has that wonderfully saturated tonality that Technicolor offers, richer than life almost. The film shares a directorial credit between Curtiz and William Keighley, who had started the film, but Curtiz had been brought in to enliven the action sequences. However it goes about, the action is quite lively. Flynn, well, he’s so closely associated with swashbuckling and sword-fighting, that he more or less epitomizes that grand genre and utterly embodies it. And it’s easy to see why.
The film’s version of the Robin Hood tale, however loosely played, has become a common template for the story. King Richard the Lion-Hearted sets out for the Crusades, and his evil brother John (Claude Rains) decides to take the throne. He taxes the poor and steals and has his men plunder. And noble Robin, Earl of Locksley, takes to Sherwood Forest, robbing from the rich and giving to the poor, fighting for an England of King Richard’s against the false tyranny of John. While John is slightly fey, he has Sir Guy of Gisbourne (Basil Rathbone) to do his dastardly deeds for him and to actually match blades with the tough guy Robin Hood.
Filmed as it was near Chico, CA, and starring a mostly American, very notably American, cast, the film, especially at its spiritual heart, fighting for freedom, for the poor, against false tyranny and taxes, seems strikingly American as well. But who is to quibble over such things.
Felix found the special effects to be a little dubious, and he also wondered why John didn’t fight his own battles. But the whole darn thing was entertaining as heck, and as I said, Clara gave it a strong positive. I think that we’ll be visiting Captain Blood (1935) pretty soon, also directed by Curtiz, it’s the film that catapulted Flynn into stardom. That is one that’s been on tv many, many times in my life, but I am ashamed to say I haven’t seen it. Soon, I think, soon. We’ll be swashing buckles for some time to come.