Time: 119 mins.
Rating: Not Rated
Academy Award nominations for Best Director, Score Sound, Screenplay and Best Picture.
Captain Blood launched Flynn from bit player to super star, turning him into Hollywood's premier action-adventure hero. While this may not be his best swashbuckler that moniker is rightfully bestowed on THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD BLOOD lustily delivers enough action, romance and comedy to leave most viewers happily sated by the experience. As Depp and company proved, it's hard to resist pirates. What keeps this film from being a completely rousing good time is the pace of the film's first act. The action begins in England in the 17th century during a rebellion against the King James II. Flynn plays a local doctor, Peter Blood, who is captured by the king's forces while helping a rebel. He attempts to plead his case that doctors are blind to politics when it comes to aiding the sick or injured. Unfortunately, the magistrates don't agree with his argument and condemn him, along with "his" compatriots, to a live on slavery in Jamaica. Angered by the injustice, Blood joins the rebel cause and vows to lead them to freedom and exact revenge on their captors.
To keep the ladies from getting bored, the ploy launches him into the heart of the lovely Olivia de Havilland, who plays Arabella the niece of the ruthless island governor (Atwill), the rebels' chief enemy. She initially takes pity on Blood and saves him from a sure death, but his ingratitude and her haughtiness set the stage for a witty and wonderful flirtation that lightens the film's mood and eventually gives Blood something to fight for. Sure, life as a pirate captain is fun, however, raping, looting and pillaging eventually grows old when you have no one but smelly, hairy men to share your treasure with. His carefree attitude changes quickly when Arabella's life is on the line. He may be a pirate, but he's still a gentleman, forcing him into a duel to the death with his onetime raiding partner Levasseur (Rathbone) that is the set piece of the film. It's fairly obvious, especially in the close-ups, that they are not actually fighting across rocks on the edge of the ocean, yet you won't really care. The rivalry and hatred between their characters is palpable and an exciting preview for what's to come when they (and de Havilland) re-team in ROBIN HOOD.
This film would have been better served with a bigger budget, yet you can't really blame Warner Bros for cobbling it together when the cast was basically made up of unknowns. This was Flynn's first major role and he pours on the charm, a trait that will follow him throughout his career. He's so charismatic he makes even the boring slave stuff interesting. The sparks also fly between him and de Havilland, who become one of Hollywood's leading screen couples (they make 11 films together) due to the success of this pairing. Though most famous for directing CASABLANCA, Curtiz shows his prowess in blending diverse elements (action, romance and comic hijinks) into a seamless and entertaining whole. BLOOD is one of his better efforts thanks to great casting, good, if occasionally over-the-top acting, first-rate art direction and a well-written script. While the characters aren't very deep, they manage to make themselves memorable and the experience fun and that's all one can really ask from a light-hearted romp such as this. PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN the 21st century version of this tale proves that some genres, when done with class, humor and spunk will never die.