Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The "Errol Flynn Adventures" DVD Box Set

As of August 4, Warner Home Video/TCM Spotlight is releasing to the public the 4th boxed set of Errol Flynn DVDs, “Errol Flynn Adventures”. It might better have been titled “Errol Flynn War Movies” since the 5 films are all set during and about World War II. This reviewer has been eagerly awaiting this release, and the wait was worth it.
The movies have been beautifully restored and are crystal clear in quality. I prefer letterboxed films now that I know about them, but I am not schooled enough to know if that is really necessary with these older films. In any case, although they are not letterboxed, they look and sound as they must have in the theatres of the 40’s. To further bolster that feeling, the extras are just fantastic. If you watch the extras, then the movies, you have the feeling of seeing it in its original time. War newsreels, Warner Brother cartoons, military band shorts, theatrical trailers of movies coming up, then the movie itself – just a wonderful experience.

The 5 films are a picture of an era and of Hollywood’s propaganda in bolstering the morale of a suffering citizenry. Some are more realistic than others, but all share a common bond of hope and determination to win that terrible war. Errol Flynn took some heat due to the fact that he did not fight in the war, and it did not help that the studio did not want it to be known that Flynn had tried every branch of the service and was turned down. He had a bad heart, malaria, history of tuberculosis and an injured back. The studio did not want their macho star’s image tarnished with any kind of disability, and this was a source of embarrassment to Flynn through the war years. It was his desire to make films to help the war effort, and he did so very effectively with the following movies:

Uncertain Glory (1944) is the story of Jean Picard (Errol Flynn), a thief and murderer sentenced to the guillotine in Nazi-occupied France. Inspector Bonet (Paul Lukas) has been chasing him down for years and is determined to bring him to justice. Through a series of circumstances, Picard and Bonet find themselves on the same side of a very strange exploit. In my opinion, this movie, although not very well known outside of classic movie buff circles, is one of Flynn’s finest performances. He is not dashing, not very charming, unshaven most of the time, a thoroughly reprehensible man. Flynn really shows his acting chops and gives a marvelous performance.
Director: Raoul Walsh. Music: Max Steiner

Edge of Darkness (1943) is the story of Gunnar Brogge (Flynn), a fisherman in a small village in Nazi-occupied Norway. Along with his love Karen (Ann Sheridan), her doctor father (Walter Huston), and the rest of the small village, underground activities against the Nazis are the focus of their lives. A really nasty Nazi Captain (Helmut Dantine, probably the most beautiful male villain on screen) has no conscience in his desire to blot out all patriotism and hope in these people. This film is strong, serious and very spiritual in nature.
 Director: Lewis Milestone. Music: Franz Waxman
(An interesting aside:  Helmut Dantine was a young Austrian who worked tirelessly in the Vienna anti-Nazi movement.  He was imprisoned for it, but family got him out and sent him to America for safety.  In his acting career, however, he played many Nazi parts in movies during these years.  It must have been satisfying to him to portray them as the monsters they were for all the world to see.  That's Hollywood for you!)

Objective Burma (1945) was Errol Flynn’s favorite of his movies. A stirring and true story of a squadron trapped in the Burmese jungle trying to make their way out for rescue, the movie is hard-edged and quite realistic for the time. James Brown and Henry Hull co-starred. Flynn enjoyed it because he did not have to be a romantic lead this time, just a man in a man’s world. The remarkable scene of soldiers parachuting over the jungle to spine-tingling music is truly something to see.
Director: Raoul Walsh. Music: Franz Waxman
(As an interesting aside, this movie was banned in England because the British were angry that their part and the part of the Australians were minimized so much in the story of this operation.)

Desperate Journey (1944) is probably the most propaganda-type of any war movie I ever saw. It’s a Hogan’s Hero type of romp through the German countryside by a group of flyers trying to get out of Germany. Flynn, Ronald Reagan, Arthur Kennedy and Alan Hale are comrades in arms.  Most of the Germans are pretty stupid and easily tricked by our guys. Even the great Raymond Massey as a Nazi Major is made to look foolish. Even so, I just love this movie. It is full of humor, has enough pathos to keep it respectable, and is so unrealistic that I still remember the last line of the movie with an eager Flynn in the cockpit of a plane saying “Now for the Pacific and a crack at those Japs!” I didn’t know it was so easy to change from the German campaign to the Japanese campaign, but if anybody could do it, Errol Flynn could.
Director: Raoul Walsh. Music: Max Steiner/Hugo Friedhofer

Northern Pursuit (1943) has Flynn playing Steve Wagner, a Canadian Mountie who stumbles across a Nazi colonel (Hollywood's favorite Nazi, Helmut Dantine again) who has landed in Canada to mount an offensive. Wagner’s fiancée (Julie Bishop) becomes entangled with an interesting plot. The film is quite lovely in its portrayal of a snowy, icy Canadian wasteland, and the story is well-done.
Director: Raoul Walsh. Music: Adolph Deutsch
(A personal aside: It must have been really difficult to live in America during World War II with the name Adolph Deutsch!)

These movies have it all – great character actors, creative cinematography and sets, soaring music that usually includes La Marseilles, American anthems and God Save the King, and especially patriotism in its purest form. And of course, Errol Flynn. Treat yourself and get this set. It will be an exceptional addition to your movie collection.

(Some of these and many other Flynn movies will be showing on Turner Classic Movies for Errol Flynn Day on August 7.)


  1. Most excellent coverage of the Errol Flynn box set, Becky. Your synopses and trivia are not only well written but create an intense desire to go on an Errol Flynn marathon -- as you may very well have done for your review! TCM's box sets of late have been terrific, and I especially like the ones that focus on a particular actor/actress. Great job, Becky, and thanks for a stellar write-up on a few Errol flicks!

  2. Becky, as you know, I'm a huge Errol Flynn fan and thoroughly enjoyed all your fine reviews of these highly entertaining films. I think OBJECTIVE BURMA is the best of the bunch, but DESPERATE JOURNEY is a lot of fun and I've always had a soft spot for NORTHERN PURSUIT. When I was going up--pre-video--it was always a big deal in my family when a Flynn film was on TV. My Dad and I stayed up to 3:30 in the morning in see EDGE OF DARKNESS...on a school night, no less! Thanks for highlighting this awesome boxed set which I'm add to my film collection.

  3. Movies of the '40s don't need to be letterboxed...that wasn't an issue until CinemaScope came along in 1953.

    This sounds like a great set.

    Best wishes,

  4. Thanks for your kind comments, guys. Sark, you are right, I did have a Flynn marathon and loved it! Rick, my Mom and Dad and I never missed a Flynn film on TV when I was a kid, even late at night like your family. And Laura, thanks for the info about letterbox. I never really knew for sure, though suspected the older movies didn't need it. And it is a great set!

  5. Becky, thanks for an excellent profile of a movie set that my family will probably buy soon! We love Errol Flynn - whether swashbuckling, making us laugh, or doing his part for the war effort. You did a great job showcasing these works.

  6. Tomorrow is Errol Flynn's big day on TCM and I'm looking forward to seeing the documentary about him, "The Adventures of Errol Flynn" (4:45 pm Eastern/1:45 pm Pacific), as well as many of his great films. Great boxed set review, Becky.

  7. Awesome Bec!! Like TheLadyEve. I will be glued to TCM for Errol Flynn's big day !!

  8. All five are my favorite Errol Flynn movies. A box set with all the classic Errol Flynn War movies in one- hard to go wrong! But if i had to pick one (or the one i have watched countless times) it would be Objective Burma. I have done a review on this movie myself and really think these movies get better with age!