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Having something like ERROL FLYNN: THE SIGNATURE COLLECTION on DVD, really is what movie collecting is all about.  So many fantastic, classic movies crammed into a single collection, with terrific extras nonetheless, and a bargain basement price leaves this long time movie buff thinking he has died and gone to Hollywood heaven.  Heck, if you feel the same way I do about classic movies, you could pretty much skip the rest of this review and run out to buy you own copy of ERROL FLYNN: THE SIGNATURE COLLECTION, and donít forget to give a rousing cheer to Warner Home Video for releasing this magnificent set.

Starting things off is CAPTAIN BLOOD, the film that transformed the handsome young actor into a swashbuckling movie star.  CAPTAIN BLOOD also marked Errol Flynnís first pairing with lovely leading lady Olivia de Havilland.  Based upon the Rafael Sabatini novel, CAPTAIN BLOOD tells of a compassionate British physician, who finds himself sold into slavery, only to emerge as a rather noble pirate.  Featuring plenty of swordplay and action, CAPTAIN BLOOD is the kind of movie one only wishes they were still making today.  The fine supporting cast of CAPTAIN BLOOD also features Lionel Atwill and Basil Rathbone. 

Warner Home Video presents CAPTAIN BLOOD in fine black & white 1.37: transfer.  There are some marking and blemishes on the seventy-year-old film elements, but they hold up rather well, all things considered.  Image sharpness and detail are good; some shots are a bit softer than others, but nothing worth complaining about.  Blacks are fine, as are the whites and contrast is generally good.  Film grain is noticeable, but not excessive.  The Dolby Digital monaural track is fairly free from signs of age and is well reproduced, for a movie from seven decades ago.  Fidelity has the expected limitations, although the music sounds respectable.  Dialogue is always understandable.  A French language track is also provided on the DVD, as are English, French and Spanish subtitles.

DODGE CITY moves Flynnís swashbuckling cinematic hero persona into the old west, where he is just as effective with a six-shooter as he is with a sword.  In DODGE CITY Flynn portrays a well-traveled cowpoke, in an era where the four-legged horse meets the iron horse.  Arriving in a lawless Dodge City, Flynnís character finds himself picking up a tin star and slapping on his guns to take on a gang of outlaws controlled by the corrupt cattle merchant that now runs the town.  DODGE CITY again teams Flynn with Olivia de Havilland, as well as frequent co-star Alan Hale, plus the cast features Ann Sheridan, Bruce Cabot and Henry Travers.

DODGE CITY is one of those rare thirties era Technicolor productions for Warner, and pretty much looks glorious in that lost color process.  However, because it has not been meticulously restored, DODGE CITY displays some of the limitations inherent in the Technicolor process, most of which can be described as mis-registration of the 3 strip elements in individual shots.  There is a bit of softness here and there, but for the most part the image reasonable sharp and nicely defined.  Colors generally appear vibrant and very pleasing to the eye.  Blemishes and other markings are fairly minimal.  A grain structure is noticeable, but renders the image with a film like quality   The Dolby Digital monaural track sounds just fine, with the music coming across without harshness and the dialogue being crisp.  A French language track is also provided on the DVD, as are English, French and Spanish subtitles.

While its stage roots are clearly evident, THE PRIVATE LIVES OF ELIZABETH AND ESSEX is a thoroughly entertaining costume drama that finds Errol Flynn in fine form in a less than swashbuckling role, and holding his own against Warnerís then reining diva, Bette Davis.  Sure, THE PRIVATE LIVES OF ELIZABETH AND ESSEX is a showcase for the talents of Davis, but as you watch Flynn, you come to realize that he was a genuine actor, capable of creating a performance without a sword or gun his hand.  The plot of THE PRIVATE LIVES OF ELIZABETH AND ESSEX chronicles the political intrigue and romance surrounding the tempestuous affair between English Queen Elizabeth I and the Earl of Essex.  Olivia de Havilland and Alan Hale appear in featured roles, while the excellent supporting cast includes Donald Crisp Vincent Price, Henry Daniell and Leo G. Carroll.

THE PRIVATE LIVES OF ELIZABETH AND ESSEX is another marvelous Technicolor production from 1939 that highlights the filmís costumes and the sets and enhances the love story at the center of the drama.  There are some registration errors during the course of the film, which can be mildly bothersome.  Image quality is very good for a film that is over sixty-five years of age, especially when one that has not undergone a full restoration and digital cleanup.  Sharpness and image detail are fine, with a little bit of softness creeping in here and there.  Colors are generally vibrant and appealing, just as Technicolor should be.  The film elements display minor signs of age, with blemishes being held in check reasonably well.  Film grain is noticeable, but nothing out of the ordinary for movie of this vintage.  The Dolby Digital monaural track is just fine for its age.  Fidelity has all the expected limitations, but the music and dialogue come across without significant incidents at modest listening levels.  A French language track is also provided on the DVD, as are English, French and Spanish subtitles.

THE SEA HAWK returns Flynn to the kind of a swashbuckling role that initially made him a star, and evidences why he was truly one of the screenís greats in this sort of endeavor.  In this rousing adventure Flynn portrays the Captain of a ship of privateers that are fiercely loyal to both England and its Queen.  Although the title of the film comes from Rafael Sabatini novel, the plot of THE SEA HAWK actually paints an allegorical portrait of the aggressions of Nazi Germany by depicting Spainís designs on England.  Filled with both political intrigue and plenty of action, THE SEA HAWK is one of Flynnís best and most entertaining movies.  The superior supporting cast of THE SEA HAWK features Claude Rains, Donald Crisp, Flora Robson, Brenda Marshall, Una O'Connor, Montagu Love, as well as the seemingly ever present Alan Hale.

THE SEA HAWK has been given a great black and white transfer that presents the film in its correct 1.37:1 theatrical aspect ratio.  Sure, there are inconsistencies in the image, as over twenty minutes of cut footage was reintegrated into the film from surviving elements.  For the most part, the picture appears reasonably crisp and nicely defined.  There is some softness, but for the most part is related to the restored footage.  Blacks are deep, whites are clean and contrast pretty smooth.  A section of the film is sepia toned to recreate the original theatrical experience.  Blemishes and other signs of age are held in check, or are at least never too objectionable.  Film grain is present much of the time, but serves to enhance the feeling that one is watching a classic movie.  The Dolby Digital monaural track is really quite good for a film of this vintage.  Fidelity has the expected limitations, but the Erich Wolfgang Korngold score still manages to sound good. Additionally, dialogue is crisp and fully intelligible.  No other language tracks are included, but English, French and Spanish subtitles have been provided.

Although THEY DIED WITH THEIR BOOTS ON appears on the surface to be a biography of General George Armstrong Custer, the plot is far more "Hollywood" than actual history.  Of course, the Hollywood influence serves to make THEY DIED WITH THEIR BOOTS ON purely entertaining, instead of purely educational.  Not surprisingly, Flynn cuts a dashing figure as Custer and gives a terrific performance in the role.  The plot of the film follows his military career from West Point to Little Big Horn, while allowing for some romantic interludes with Olivia de Havilland in the role of Custerís wife.  The cast of THEY DIED WITH THEIR BOOTS ON also features Arthur Kennedy, Charley Grapewin, Gene Lockhart, Anthony Quinn, Sydney Greenstreet, Regis Toomey and Hattie McDaniel.

THEY DIED WITH THEIR BOOTS ON is offered in a wonderful black and white transfer that presents the film in a proper 1.37:1 aspect ratio. The image is quite crisp and really nicely defined. Blacks appear inky, whites are clean and the picture boasts a terrific grayscale and very smooth contrast. The film elements are well preserved; displaying some blemishes, but nothing too distracting for a film passing the six-decade mark. A grain structure is noticeable, but never excessive. The Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack is pretty smooth and distortion free, and Max Steiner's fine score sounds quite pleasing, despite the technological limitations in fidelity. No other language tracks are included, but English, French and Spanish subtitles have been provided.


As for the supplements, the chief supplement for ERROL FLYNN: THE SIGNATURE COLLECTION is a sixth bonus disc that contains The Adventures Of Errol Flynn, an eighty-seven minute biography on the actor that was produced for Turner Classic Movies. Entertaining and educational, the biography chronicles the highs and lows of flamboyant actorís career, as well as his notorious womanizing ways. As for the rest of the collection, each individual disc includes a Warner Night At The Movies hosted by Leonard Maltin that features a Newsreel, Short Subject, Cartoon and Trailers. Each individual disc also contains its own specific featurette: Captain Blood: A Swashbuckler Is Born, Dodge City: Go West Errol Flynn, Elizabeth And Essex: Battle Royale, The Sea Hawk: Flynn In Action, They Died With Their Boots On: To Hell Or Glory.

As I stated above, having something like ERROL FLYNN: THE SIGNATURE COLLECTION available to movie fans, is what DVD collecting is really all about. Warner has done a fine job with the films in the collection, offering solid presentations and fine extras. If you are a Flynn fan or movie buff, ERROL FLYNN: THE SIGNATURE COLLECTION is a must have. Absolutely recommended.

Note: the collection is available for $59.98, while the individual films can be had for $19.98 each.



The Errol Flynn Signature Collection (Captain Blood / The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex / The Sea Hawk / They Died with Their Boots On / Dodge City / The Adventures of Errol Flynn)


DVD reviews are Copyright © 2005 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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