Tuesday, May 29, 2012
Overlooked Films: The Sea Hawk (1940)
After reading and reviewing Rafael Sabatini's novel The Sea-Hawk (that's HERE), I was eager to take another look at the Errol Flynn version. My vague memory of the film was that Flynn played a pretty standard pirate hero in the Captain Blood mold. This would be very much at odds with the book, where the title character is an Englishman who has converted to Islam. Sabatini's Sea-Hawk wears a turban and commands a crew of Muslim corsairs
Well, my memory proved correct, and the explanation is fairly simple. The 1940 version of The Sea Hawk was not based on Sabatini's novel at all. A fairly faithful silent version had been made back in 1924, and Warner Brothers held the rights, but when they got around to doing a remake they decided (probably wisely) to go with an entirely different story and keep only the title.
In this version, the King of Spain wants to rule the world, and plans on starting with England as soon as his Armada is ready. England has almost no navy, so her only protection lies in The Sea Hawks, a band of loyal privateers whose most effective member is Captain Geoffry Thorpe, in the person of Errol Flynn. The only similarity to the book is that the Spanish are the bad guys, and at one point our hero is captured and chained to an oar in a Spanish galley.
That said, The Sea Hawk is one hell of a fine adventure film, with plenty of rousing sword fights, sea battles and rollicking pirate humor. Flynn is at his swashbuckling best, and among his crew are perennial sidekick Alan Hale and Edgar Buchanan. Claude Rains and Gilbert Roland ably portray Spanish villains. And Henry Daniell makes a suitably slimy traitor, a role that was probably intended for Basil Rathbone. Warner Brothers built two full size ships on the studio lot, and even flooded the set with water to provide more realistic battle scenes. Even the musical score is outstanding.
Lots more Overlooked Films at SWEET FREEDOM.