Europe, XVI th century. Spain's empire covers from southern Europe to Germany and the New World. However, for the king's imperial dreams to come true he first needs to conquer England, for which he is assembling an armada. Meanwhile, a British corsair, Thorpe, captures a Spanish ship carrying the Spanish ambassador. Romance ensues between Thorpe and the ambassador's niece, but Thorpe is forced to travel inmediately to Panama for another coup aganst the Spaniards.Comments:
What a riot! This must be the best pirate movie I've ever seen. Bar none. It's not entirely without defects, because the riotous, fun loving tone of the first half an hour doesn't last long. The movie never feels completely like a full blown epic, because Michael Curtiz prefers to keep things as tightly paced as possible, but you can see that the intentions were to make something much bigger than Errol Flynn's previous swashbucklers. The story is centered around Thorpe's adventures, naturally, but a bit chunk of the 2-hour running time is devoted to the intrigues between Spain and Great Britain right before the Armada Invencible. See, Thorpe and almost everybody is convinced that an invasion attempt is inminent, but the Queen refuses to believe it until she (or is it She?) is presented sound evidence. Add to the mix a Lord that's playing both sides and a good bunch of Spanish villains and you've got the picture.
So, what does it make it so great? Pretty much everything. Director Michael Curtiz (yep, the guy from Casablanca
, and an underrated director if there was ever one) expertly balances all the pieces. His approach seems modest at times, because he never uses two shots if one is enough, but all of them are perfectly calculated for maximum effect. This is a highly dinamic film, no matter wether the scene is about two people talking or fencing. The secret is in the careful framing, lightning and the performances. Don't move the camera, move the elements inside the frame instead. Don't overdo the editing, just let the conversations overlap instead of intercutting. And the acting is also flawless. From the very first scene Errol Flynn is in, you can tell he's a natural. He's instantly likable, athletic (he also seems to be doing quite a lot of his own stunts) and handles well everything that's thrown at him, from scenes were he acts cocky to defeated, and even a handful of romantic scenes with Brenda Marshall. However, Flynn seems far more confortable in his scenes with the actress who plays Queen Elizabeth, Flora Robson. Their characters share a complicated relationship, with Queen Elizabeth trying to juggle with many balls at the same time, but their scenes make it look as easy as a child's play.
There's also a big chunk of the movie that takes place in Panama, and for some reason it's been tinted to sepia (according to the IMDB, for monetary reasons, because the producers wanted to reuse some footage that had also been tinted sepia). That's a very different adventure than the taking of the ship that opens the film, but unlike Ridley Scott in Robin Hood
Michael Curtiz doesn't seem to have trouble when working with a script that's essentially a patchwork. It's like a movie within a movie, one that's lets us see a very different aspect of the pirate's life, and one that also has some of the best visuals of the film.
Needless to say, I highly recommend this film.