Cast: Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Basil Rathbone, Ross Alexander
Oscar Nominations: Best Picture, Best Director (Michael Curtiz), Best Writing, Screenplay (Casey Robinson), Best Sound, Recording (Nathan Levinson), Best Music, Score (Leo F. Forbstein [head of department], score by Erich Wolfgang Korngold)
SUMMARY: During the 1600s in England, doctor Peter Blood is woken one night and asked to care for a man who was injured during the Monmouth Rebellion (trying to overthrow King James II). However, by aiding a traitor, Blood has also committed a crime; he is convicted of treason and sentenced to death. However, before he and many of his fellow traitors can be executed, they are sent to the West Indies to be sold as slaves. When he arrives there, Blood verbally lashes out at the powerful Colonel Bishop. Somewhat amused by this, Bishop’s niece Arabella Bishop (Olivia de Havilland) purchases Blood, but orders him to work with her uncle’s slaves. Unable to forget him, she makes excuses to ride by the place where he is working, and even recommends him to the local governor. The governor has been suffering from gout, and the two local doctors have been ineffectual; Arabella recommends Blood, who is able to relieve the governor’s pain. Colonel Bishop resents this improvement in status. Although his situation has vastly improved, Blood still longs to escape. He is finally able to work out a plan with his fellow slaves, in which they bribe a local to buy a ship; they will then sail away. However, this plan goes awry when Port Royal is attacked by Spanish pirates. During the melee, Blood and the other men manage to escape, and even get to the port: however, they then learn that their purchased ship has been sunk by the pirates. In retaliation, they storm the pirates’ ship, and take it over. When Bishop comes aboard, intending to thank them for driving out the pirates, they toss him overboard. The entire group then embarks on a life of piracy, governed by a code laid out by Blood.
Over the years, the men enjoy incredible success (much to the disgust of the higher-ups). King James II decides that the current governor is unable to stop Captain Blood, and names Colonel Bishop governor instead. Bishop immediately intends to set sail on a search for Blood, and decides to send Arabella back to England while he does this. While the pirates see the ship that Arabella is traveling on, they ultimately decide not to attack it. Eventually, Captain Blood forms a partnership with French pirate Captain Levasseur (Basil Rathbone). Blood is reluctant to do this, but Levasseur is enthusiastic, and agrees to operate according to Captain Blood’s code. When Arabella is finally on her way back to Port Royal, her ship is attacked by Levasseur; Arabella and a royal emissary named Lord Willoughby are taken captive. Levasseur intends to keep Arabella for himself, against the code: Blood shows up just in time to stop this. He and Levasseur engage in a sword fight that ranges across the beach, with Blood eventually killing Levasseur. Once back at sea, Blood tries to approach Arabella, but is rebuffed. However, he orders his men to sail for Port Royal, despite the fact that Colonel Bishop currently has his entire fleet stationed there. The men of the crew are very wary of this, but are convinced by Captain Blood’s spotless record of leadership. When they get to Port Royal, rather than seeing Bishop’s forces, they see two French ships attacking the city. Willoughby explains that England and France are at war; Colonel Bishop is so obsessed with capturing Blood that he left the port undefended, and the French took the opportunity to attack. Blood and his crew all refuse to fight for the man who sold them into slavery, but Willoughby tells them that James had been deposed, and that William of Orange is now the King of England. Furthermore, all members of the crew have been offered a full pardon and a naval commission. This news dramatically changes things, and the crew decides to fights. They disguise themselves as a French ship, and sail right up to the two ships in the port before blasting them both out of the water. For this, Blood is named the new governor of Port Royal; he and Arabella both gleefully announce the news to Colonel Bishop.
SUMMARY: I previously reviewed The Adventures of Robin Hood, which actually came out after this movie. Basically, they have the same plot line and many of the same actors: Robin Hood just takes place on land (and in color). Both movies star Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, and Basil Rathbone; in both, Flynn’s character begins as a well-respected member of the community, but is sent into disgrace by a corrupt royal; in both, he rallies a motley crew of men and fights back against that royal and his cronies; finally, in both he wins the hand of the lady (who is related to either the royal or the crony) and regains his social standing (while the bad guys get their just rewards, but live). I was never really in doubt of what was going to happen, especially since this is an old movie, and the good guys always win in the old movies. The leading characters are always very sympathetic: even though Blood (btw, is he not the most aptly man ever? First he’s a doctor named Blood, and then he’s a pirate named Blood) and his men are pirates, they kill “as few as possible”, and are shown to have great loyalty to each other. It’s definitely not Pirates of the Caribbean (even though it takes place in the same town), where they actually show the fighting, the dirtiness of the men, and the questionable morals.
RATING: Not deep, but classic fun.