Captain Blood is one fantastic adventure movie. It was nominated for the Best Picture Oscar in 1935, but lost to another sea film, Mutiny on the Bounty. Errol Flynn is a natural at these larger-than-life characters and it’s easy to see why he was a top box office star for so many years. His demeanor is perfect for righteous indignation and rousing speeches. Olivia de Havilland is beautiful, coy, and charismatic as Arabella. Flynn and de Havilland would make a stunning eight movies together including The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938). Basil Rathbone is much better than expected as the Frenchman Levassuer and was Flynn’s nemesis in Robin Hood.
Dr. Peter Blood (Errol Flynn with great 1970s hair) isn’t interested in politics when he is summoned to help a man wounded in a revolt against King James in 1685. While attending the man, Dr. Blood is rounded up with several other traitors and condemned to death. By chance, a group of the condemned are spared hanging and sent to be slaves in Jamaica, including Dr. Blood. He is allowed a certain amount of freedom because of his occupation as a doctor and the fondness of Arabella Bishop (Olivia de Havilland) and he uses this freedom to orchestrate an escape for himself and his comrades. The escaping slaves take over a Spanish fighting ship and become pirates led by Captain Blood. Three years later Arabella is captured by the pirate Levasseur (Basil Rathbone). Levassuer and Captain Blood fight a duel for her and when Blood wins the duel, he finds Arabella hates him and all that he has become.
Michael Curtiz (who directed Casablanca) is a great action director. He highlights contrasts well. One example is the men who were formerly turning a water wheel while whipped are seen gladly turning the wheel to raise anchor on their new ship.
One of the very best swashbuckling movies of all time, it’s hard to believe this is Errol Flynn’s first starring role in a Hollywood movie and only his third Hollywood feature overall. According to the DVD special feature Captain Blood: A Swashbuckler is Born, several other stars of the time were tested for the role, but the unknown Flynn kept returning as very impressive. Some of the others considered include Leslie Howard, Ronald Coleman, Clark Gable, Robert Donat (who turned down the role), and Fredrick March. There is also An Evening at the Movies, introduced by the omnipresent Leonard Maltin, with all the various types of things you would see in a theater in 1935: newsreel, cartoon, etc. A great movie for kids and adults alike, buy Captain Bloodfrom Amazon, you won’t be sorry.
Captain Blood, directed by Michael Curtiz, written by Casey Robinson from the novel by Rafael Sabatini. starring Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Basil Rathbone, and Lionel Atwill. 119 minutes. 1935.
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Errol Flynn Print
Errol Flynn black and white print. Available in 8×10″.