Warner Home Video presents
The Adventures of Errol Flynn (2005)
"I had an insatiable desire to run through the world and not be hemmed in by anybody."- Errol Flynn
Stars: Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Ian Holm
Other Stars: Richard Dreyfuss, Burt Reynolds, David Niven, Joanne Woodward
Director: David Heeley
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 01h:26m:39s
Release Date: 2005-04-19
DVD ReviewWith his roguish charm, mischievious twinkle, and bad boy reputation, Errol Flynn just might be the original Tasmanian devil. But whereas his Looney Tunes cartoon cousin achieved fame as a whirling dervish of destruction, Flynn used a saber and killer good looks to cut his path to superstardom. The Australian native, who would dazzle audiences with audacious feats of derring-do in such swashbuckling classics as Captain Blood, The Adventures of Robin Hood, and The Sea Hawk, lived a life not unlike the heroes he portrayed, craving adventure, beautiful women, and riches beyond all measure. He got what he desired and then some, but paid for it dearly, and is only now—almost a half century after his death—receiving the professional respect that so often eluded him during his wild and crazy Hollywood years.
The Adventures of Errol Flynn, another in a series of impeccably produced Turner Classic Movies documentaries, looks at the actor's colorful life, and the success, scandal, and eventual self-destruction that defined it. Far more than a cavalcade of clips sprinkled with superficial analysis, this absorbing, entertaining film (included as a bonus disc in Warner Home Video's comprehensive Errol Flynn Signature Collection) takes a mythic movie figure and brings him down to earth. Director David Heeley dissects Flynn's aura without destroying it, and examines the star's talent, personality, and private travails with objectivity, humor, and warmth. Enhanced by Flynn's own recorded musings, home movies, a rare screen test, and dozens of excerpts from both obscure and iconic films, the intimate portrait also features both contemporary and archival interviews with such prominent figures as Richard Dreyfuss, Burt Reynolds, Joanne Woodward, David Niven, and directors Vincent Sherman and Delmer Daves. All offer much more than glowing testimonials; they analyze Flynn's underrated abilities, magnetism, and playfulness, and illuminate the subtler aspects of his personality.
Flynn's life plays like one of his films, and the matinee idol's talent for embellishment has made it difficult for his biographers to separate fact from fiction. The son of an "extremely patient" father and abusive mother, Errol struggled in school, rebelled against authority, and struck out on his own at age 17. His thirst for adventure led him to primitive New Guinea, where he took a series of odd jobs, ranging from cadet patrol officer and gold prospector to diamond smuggler, slave trader, and manager of a tobacco plantation. As a lark, Flynn acted in a 1933 Australian film, In the Wake of the Bounty (a sequel of sorts to Mutiny on the Bounty), and later said, "I had touched on something that the world called an art form, and it had affected me deeply." He left Australia and sailed for England, honing his craft in a repertory troupe before landing a role in one of Warner Bros.' British productions, which in turn brought him to the attention of studio chief Jack Warner, who quickly summoned Flynn to Hollywood. When Robert Donat, Leslie Howard, and Fredric March all turned down Captain Blood, Flynn's first wife, actress Lily Damita, convinced studio executives to test her husband.
The rest, as they say, is history.
No one ever considered Flynn a great actor, but his easygoing manner, sincerity, and naturalness keep his performances contemporary, and allow him to connect with audiences on a personal level. Creating such a relaxed rapport is both a talent and a gift, and critics of Flynn's day rarely recognized it. Their indifference frustrated him, but Flynn regarded moviemaking as more of a hobby than a passion, and despite a rigorous production schedule, carved out time to indulge other interests. Not only did he pen a couple of novels and an autobiography (aptly titled My Wicked, Wicked Ways), but the avid sailor even took his schooner on a marine biology expedition to the South Seas (chronicled in Cruise of the Zaca, a short film that Warner includes on its Robin Hood disc).
Such intellectual pursuits helped offset Flynn's playboy image and dull the impact of an explosive and emotionally devastating statutory rape charge (which spawned the tongue-in-cheek phrase "in like Flynn"). A jury acquitted him, but whispers also swept through Hollywood that Flynn was a Nazi spy during World War II. The Adventures of Errol Flynn extensively covers both issues, quashing many sensational rumors with well-researched facts. Yet despite the documentary's defense of its subject, it never sugarcoats Flynn's vices (of which alcohol and women were but a few) as it depicts a man who worked hard, played harder, and burned himself out prematurely. (He died of a heart attack in 1959 at age 50.) His widow, Patrice Wymore Flynn, frankly discusses his morphine addiction and bittersweet final years, while daughter Deidre (a product of his stormy second marriage to Nora Eddington) shares her memories of Flynn as a father.
Both women knew Flynn intimately, but perhaps actress Olivia de Havilland knew him best. The two made eight films together, shared a passionate romance (he repeatedly begged her to marry him), and remain one of Hollywood's most popular and enduring love teams. De Havilland also just might be Flynn's staunchest and most vocal champion, and her reminiscences throughout the documentary—all delivered with a regal and, at times, surprisingly salty flair—are lively, funny, insightful, and touching. De Havilland can't help but act out her stories, and at 88, still holds an audience enraptured. She positively beams as she relates how Bette Davis—who scoffed at the casting of Flynn in The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex, and treated him with disdain throughout production—admitted late in life how wonderful she thought he was in the role, and how she had shamefully misjudged him. It's a memorable moment in a very memorable documentary.
Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A
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Image Transfer Review: This recent program looks terrific, and, as usual, Warner supplies only the finest quality film clips from its vault. Technicolor scenes from Robin Hood and Dodge City explode with vibrant hues, and the interview segments are sharp and nicely balanced.
Image Transfer Grade: A-
Audio Transfer Review: Only the earliest Flynn film clips possess any surface defects; the rest of the stereo track is as clean as a whistle, and the classic scores of Max Steiner and Erich Wolfgang Korngold sound as rousing and exuberant as ever. Separation is difficult to detect, but Ian Holm's narration enjoys fine resonance, and all the interviews are clear and comprehendible.
Audio Transfer Grade: B+
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 25 cues and remote access
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
Extras Review: No extras of any sort are included, but this itself is a bonus disc in the Errol Flynn collection boxed set.
Extras Grade: D-
Final CommentsAn insightful, in-depth profile of one of Hollywood's most recognizable and beloved stars, The Adventures of Errol Flynn is almost as much fun as one of the actor's robust swashbucklers. The meticulously produced documentary paints a full-bodied, balanced portrait of both the actor and the man, and gives classic film fans yet another reason to snatch up The Errol Flynn Signature Collection—as if we needed an excuse. Recommended.
David Krauss 2005-05-05