Errol Flynn: The Signature Collection [6 Discs] [DVD]

In his prime, Errol Flynn was one of Hollywood's most dashing leading men. Now viewers who may not have been around to appreciate Flynn's dynamic onscreen presence while he was alive have the opportunity to witness some of his best-loved roles thanks to this release from Warner Bros. Home Video. In addition to the feature-packed releases of the classic Flynn features Captain Blood, The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex, The Sea Hawk, They Died With Their Boots On, and Dodge City, this release also offers the exclusive feature-length documentary The Adventures of Errol Flynn that follows the screen star from his Tasmanian childhood to his status as Hollywood heartthrob and leading man.
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Overview

Synopsis

A Tale of Two Kitties
Comedians Bud Abbott and Lou Costello are reborn as a pair of hungry felines named Babbitt and Catsello in this cartoon, which marks the first appearance of that cagey canary Tweety Pie (unnamed here, but identified as "Orson" on the character model sheets). Spotting the baby-talking canary in a nest high atop a flagpole, the opportunistic Babbitt orders the tubby Catsello to climb upward and grab the bird. Alas, the feathered fiend has an endless arsenal of weapons at his disposal--and Catsello isn't much of a match for him anyway, not even with home-made wings. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Captain Blood
When British actor Robert Donat dropped out of Warner Bros. Captain Blood, the studio took a chance on its new contractee, Tasmania-born Errol Flynn. Adapted from the novel by Rafael Sabatini, the film is set during the oppressive reign of King James II. Irish physician Peter Blood (Errol Flynn), arrested for treating a wounded anti-crown rebel, is condemned to slavery in Jamaica. Here he earns several privileges after treating the governor (George Hassell) for gout; this does not rest well with Lionel Atwill, the wicked owner of the plantation on which Blood is forced to work. Nor is Atwill pleased with the growing relationship between his niece Arabella (Olivia DeHavilland) and the imprisoned doctor. An attack on Jamaica by Spanish pirates gives Blood and his fellow slaves the opportunity to become buccaneers themselves. After several months of fighting and plunder, Blood's men capture a merchant ship bearing Arabella. Blood fights a duel with a French pirate (Basil Rathbone) over the girl; having "won" her, Blood intends to have his way with her, but his more decent instincts prevail. When King James is overthrown by William of Orange, Blood is given a commission and lauded as a hero as a reward for his bravery against the Spanish galleons. He is appointed governor of Jamaica, wins the hand of the lovely Arabella, and genially forces Atwill to eat crow. This seemingly outsized swashbuckler was actually a very economical production, using stock footage from several silent films. Captain Blood transformed the 26-year-old Errol Flynn into a star; he's a little clumsy in the dialogue department at times, but cuts a dashing figure in the action scenes. The film also represented the cinematic debut of composer Erich Wolfgang Korngold, who wasn't completely happy with his hastily written score and asked that his on-screen credit be diminished to "musical director". Long available only in its 99 minute re-issue version, Captain Blood has been restored to its full, glorious 119 minute length. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

They Died With Their Boots On
Though history is distorted almost beyond recognition in Warner Bros.' They Died With Their Boots On, audiences in 1941 ate it up like cotton candy. In the gospel according to Warners, General George Armstrong Custer (Errol Flynn) is neither an arrogant fool nor a rabid Indian hater. Instead, he is a flamboyant but brilliant cavalry officer, who during the Civil War defies his superiors' orders and becomes a hero as a result. After a period of forced retirement in the postwar years, Custer is put in charge of the 7th Cavalry in the Dakota Territory. Here he whips this ragtag group into spit-and-polish shape, and also does his best to extend a neighborly hand to the local Indian tribes. Custer even goes so far as to promise Chief Crazy Horse (Anthony Quinn) that the white man will never set foot in the sacred Black Hills. Alas, Custer is betrayed by greedy gold prospectors, whipped into a frenzy by scheming (and fictional) land speculator Ned Sharp (Arthur Kennedy). Forced by circumstances to do battle against Crazy Horse to prevent tribal retaliation, Custer and his command ride towards a rendezvous with destiny at the Little Big Horn on June 25, 1876. Though some of the historical inaccuracies in the film are real howlers, blame cannot be laid solely at the feet of Warner Bros.; the Custer legend had previously been perpetrated by the general's loyal widow Elizabeth Bacon (played herein by Olivia de Havilland), then eagerly elaborated upon by Eastern news journalists and dime novels. This film represented the final screen pairing of Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland, a fact that lends poignancy to their classic parting scene. Though an extremely long film, They Died With Their Boots On is never dull, especially during the spectacular Custer's Last Stand finale. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Dangerous Dan Mcfoo
Old Glory
The Adventures of Errol Flynn
Dodge City
This landmark western -- which, along with Stagecoach, has often been credited with revitalizing what had become a stagnant genre -- stars Errol Flynn as Wade Hatton, a cattle man who arrives in the frontier community of Dodge City, which is overrun by footloose cowboys and outlaws. When Hatton helps Dodge City lawmen capture a gang of cattle rustlers led by Jeff Surrett (Bruce Cabot), he's asked to help guide a wagon train into town with his friends Rusty Hart (Alan Hale, Sr.) and Tex Baird (Guinn Williams). En route, an impulsive young cowpoke named Lee Irving (William Lundigan) needlessly fires off his pistol, sparking a cattle stampede that leads to his death. When Hatton and his men arrive in Dodge, they discover Surrett is once again at large, and his gang has taken over the city. Appointed the city's new sheriff, Hatton is determined to clean up the town and put the outlaws out of business. In his rare moments off duty, Hatton tries to win the affections of Abbie Irving (Olivia de Havilland), but she believes that Hatton is responsible for the death of her brother Lee; Hatton's habit of flirting with dance hall girl Ruby Gilman (Ann Sheridan) does nothing to improve her opinion of him. A solid box office hit, Dodge City was the first of a series of westerns for swashbuckling star Flynn; his next oater, Virginia City, followed in 1940. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

Porky's Poor Fish
Sons of Liberty
The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex
It is no secret that Bette Davis and Errol Flynn were at each other's throats throughout the filming of The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex. Boiled down to essentials: Davis felt that Flynn was unprofessional, while Flynn thought that Davis took herself too damned seriously. Besides, Davis had wanted Laurence Olivier to play the Earl of Essex opposite her Queen Elizabeth I. She was forced to compromise on this point, but refused to allow Flynn proxy top billing via his suggestion that the film be retitled The Knight and the Lady. The finished product, a lavish Technicolor costumer allowing full scope to Davis' histrionics and Flynn's derring-do, betrays little of the backstage hostilities (though Flynn does seem uncomfortably hammy in his scenes with Davis). Adapted by Norman Reilly Raine and Aeneas McKenzie from Maxwell Anderson's blank-verse play Elizabeth the Queen (which served as the film's reissue title), the story concerns the tempestuous relationship between the middle-aged Elizabeth and the ambitious Essex. At one point, the Queen intends to marry Essex and relinquish her throne, until she realizes that his plans for advancement would ultimately prove disastrous for England. When afforded the opportunity to execute Essex for treason, she reluctantly signs his death warrant. Minutes before his final walk to the chopping block, Elizabeth begs Essex to ask for a pardon. But Essex, fully aware that his warlike policies will only resurface if he is permitted to live, refuses to accept the Queen's mercy, and goes off to meet his doom. Olivia de Havilland is wasted in the role of a lady-in-waiting who carries a torch for Essex. If the scenes of Essex' triumphant return to London after winning the battle of Cadiz seem familiar, it is because they were reused as stock footage in Warner Bros.' The Adventures of Don Juan (1949) and The Story of Mankind (1957). ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The Sea Hawk
In the 1580s, the Sea Hawks -- the name given to the bold privateers who prowl the oceans taking ships and treasure on behalf the British crown -- are the most dedicated defenders of British interests in the face of the expanding power of Philip of Spain. And Captain Geoffrey Thorpe (Errol Flynn) is the boldest of the Sea Hawks, responsible for capturing and destroying more than 50 Spanish ships and ten Spanish cities. His capture of a Spanish galleon, however, leads to more than he bargained for, in a romance with the ambassador's niece (Brenda Marshall) and the first whiff of a plan to put Spanish spies into the court of Elizabeth I (Flora Robson). Thorpe's boldness leads him to a daring raid on a treasure caravan in Panama which, thanks to treachery within Elizabeth's court, gets him captured and, with his crew, sentenced to the life of a slave aboard a Spanish ship. Meanwhile, Philip of Spain decides to wipe the threat posed by Elizabeth's independence from the sea by conquering the island nation with his armada. Thorpe, though chained to an oar, knows who the traitor at court is and plans to expose him and Philip's plans, but can he and his men break their bonds and get back to England alive in time to thwart the plans for conquest? The Sea Hawk was the last and most mature of Flynn's swashbuckling adventure films, played with brilliant stylistic flourishes by the star at his most charismatic, and most serious and studied when working with Flora Robson, whom he apparently genuinely respected. Boasting the handsomest, most opulent production values of a Warner Bros. period film to date, The Sea Hawk was made possible in part by a huge new floodable soundstage. Another highlight was the best adventure film score ever written by Erich Wolfgang Korngold; and the script's seriousness was nailed down by various not-so-veiled references not to 16th century Spain but 20th century Nazi Germany. The movie was cut by over 20 minutes for a reissue with The Sea Wolf, and the complete version was lost until a preservation-quality source was found at the British Film Institute. Since then, that 128-minute version -- which actually contains a one-minute patriotic speech by Robson as Elizabeth that was originally left out of U.S. prints, as well as amber tinting in all of the Panamanian sequences -- has become standard. ~ Bruce Eder, Rovi

Billboard Frolics
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