After a long while, I finally added this film to my DVD collection. Originally released in 1935, Captain Blood is black and white, no CGI – switch off now if this isn’t your thing. But you’ll be missing something special if you do.
This is the story of a doctor, Peter Blood, who through misfortune and circumstance finds himself a slave in the West Indies. From here he escapes with his trusty comrades and commandeers a Spanish ship, his only option now a life of piracy. We follow Captain Blood and his crew’s adventures on the seas.
Warner Brothers took a gamble in casting the unknown Errol Flynn in the lead role. The risk paid off – Flynn lights up the screen from the start. A star is not so much born as presented fully formed for the audience to adore. Olivia de Havilland, as Arabella Bishop, also found herself become an established name. There is real on screen chemistry between the two (they’d go on to star in many other films together); both Flynn and de Havilland captivating throughout.
Director Michael Curtiz employs everything he has to create a spectacle on screen, though surprisingly most of the scenes were shot on sound stages. Flynn’s sword fight with Basil Rathbone is energetic and deadly. The final swing-across-the-cavern ship to ship battle is still exciting even now.
Curtiz takes his time telling the back story before we get to the piracy on the high seas. On first viewing you may wonder when the film will actually get to the pirate part, yet the tale is told well with engaging characters and action.
Captain Blood is golden era Hollywood. It has escapism, adventure and above all, fun. Even without a single “Garrrrgh!”, it’s still full of pirate-y goodness.