Discussion in 'DVD' started by Herb Kane, Apr 20, 2005.

  1. Herb Kane

    Herb Kane Screenwriter

    May 7, 2001
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    The Sea Hawk

    Studio: Warner Brothers
    Year: 1940
    Rated: Not Rated
    Film Length: 127 Minutes
    Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 Standard
    Audio: DD Monaural
    Color/B&W: B&W
    Languages: English
    Subtitles: English, French & Spanish
    MSRP: $19.97 Individual/$59.92 Signature Collection
    Package: Single disc/Keepcase

    The Feature:
    The next installment in Warner's Signature Collection Series highlights one of the most charismatic and likeable stars of the 30's and 40's, Errol Flynn. The collection contains five of his films including Captain Blood (1935), The Private Lives Of Elizabeth And Essex (1939), Dodge City (1939), They Died With Their Boots On (1941) and the feature film, The Sea Hawk (1940). The films are available individually or as a boxed set collection. If purchased as a set, you will also be treated to the full length bonus disc, The Adventures Of Errol Flynn.


    The Sea Hawk is about the Privateers and seafaring vigilantes. The ultimate objective: to thwart Spain's plans for world domination. This premise was, of course, a metaphor for Europe's problems at the time with Hitler and the Nazi regime. During the film's epilogue, the Queen delivers a rousing and inspirational speech alerting her subjects to those circumstances; "when the ruthless ambitions of a man threaten to engulf the world...” The hero of the film is Captain Geoffrey Thorpe (played by Errol Flynn) and his faithful crew of Sea Hawks. They raid a Spanish galleass on an official mission to Queen Elizabeth (played by Flora Robson) and free many English slaves in the process. Doña María (played by Brenda Marshall), the niece of liaison Don Alvarez (played by Claude Rains) is to be presented to Her Majesty's court as a gesture of good will - and to promote a false sense of security while Spain makes plans to conquer Britain with the aid of a spy in the court.


    As with real-life Drake, Thorpe confides in the Queen of his plans to plunder Spain's resources in Panama and thwart their progress so that England can build their defenses against the inevitable, obviously the plan is unsanctioned as the ramifications would be dreadful for England if the mission failed. It does - the plan goes awry and the surviving members of the crew become galley slaves. Captain Thorpe and the Sea Hawks orchestrate an escape from the galley one night and obtain evidence to expose the plans of an armada being built to be sent against England. They set sail for home at once. After a brief but passionate reunion with Doña María - who has decided to remain in London rather than return to Spain with her uncle - Thorpe confronts Lord Wolfingham (played by Henry Daniell) for one of cinema's more engaging duels. Despite the fear of arrest for his actions, Thorpe must meet with the Queen to warn her in time with the hope of foiling Spain's surprise attack.


    Directed by Michael Curtiz (his 10th of 12 films with Flynn), The Sea Hawk is an exciting swashbuckler, one of the best of its kind. Often thought to be adapted from the novel by Rafael Sabatini of the same name, but in fact was a direct result of a story (script) entitled Beggars Of The Sea written by Seton I. Miller and Howard Koch. Actually, the only similarities between the film and the original novel is, of course, the name and the period in which the film is set. In this case Warner spared no expense which included a $1.7 million dollar budget resulting in a custom soundstage with two full scale ships afloat therein. This was the largest indoor stage in Hollywood at the time. It was decided that in order to incorporate footage from previous pirate films, The Sea Hawk would be shot in black and white. The studio's natural choice for leading lady was of course Olivia de Havilland. However, de Havilland was not available, and so they brought in a recent addition to the Warner family, Broadway star Brenda Marshall. Longtime Flynn sidekick (and offscreen buddy) Alan Hale, and Claude Rains also appear in the film.

    The Sea Hawk marks the absolute peak of Flynn's long and distinguished career. The rather stiff and boyish personage from Captain Blood has matured here into a commanding presence - a screen presence that has never been equaled. The likeable and somewhat cynical Thorpe is a man of confidence and control. Dame Flora Robson was no stranger to the role, having played Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth reprising her role from the 1937 film, Fire Over England as well as on the stage. The battles are breathtaking and are virtually non-stop throughout the entire film. Equally worthy of praise is the exceptional score of Erich Wolfgang Korngold as well as the beautiful photography of Sol Polito. This film is a masterpiece.

    Unfortunately, Flynn's off-screen persona was even more colorful than most of his movie characters. Known as a voracious womanizer and bad-boy prankster, he was notorious for his nonstop drinking. At the height of his popularity in 1942, he was charged with statutory rape. Although he would eventually be acquitted, the ordeal crushed Flynn's spirit. Plagued with innuendo of scandal and financial despair, Flynn slid into a gradual but steady decline, resulting in the majority of his better films, behind him. Flynn's health also deteriorated as well, following years of hard drinking and drug abuse. Sadly, several of Flynn’s final films saw him cast as an alcoholic - The Sun Also Rises (1957) and Too Much, Too Soon (1958). Perhaps his greatest final appearance was in the Adventures of Don Juan (1949) as he revealed some of the magic that appeared in his earlier works.


    One of the greatest swashbucklers ever.

    The Feature: 5/5

    There is an excellent RAH thread which offers up a little bit of history relating to the film as well as pertinent technical points. The thread can be located here.

    Shown in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1, The Sea Hawk is represented excellently on DVD. Other than the restored footage, this is a near perfect transfer which is rich and velvety smooth. Clearly, there are distinct differences with respect to the added footage, but it certainly isn’t an issue that would detract from the enjoyment of this wonderful film. The footage in question is slightly softer with a few more scratches and blemishes - but its inclusion is most welcome and the circumstances surrounding the less than perfect results are reasonable and acceptable.

    Black levels are exceptionally deep, while whites are contrasted nicely always appearing bold and clean. The level of grayscale is also equally impressive displaying a broad range. The levels of shadow detail and contrast were also displayed impressively. The sepia tone sequence (during the arrival in Panama) is equally interesting - and equally impressive. Detail is outstanding and the overall look is smooth and warm.

    Image detail appeared to be impressive. Most of the facial close-ups looked terrific - only slightly soft on occasion. Even the majority of wide and longer shots appeared to be satisfactorily sharp. As we would expect, many of the female close-ups were shot soft (although Robson as QE looked mostly sharp). There is a slight amount of fine film-grain that appears throughout the course of the film resulting in a gorgeous film-like image with a nice amount of depth and dimension.

    There are traces of dirt and dust, but they are slight. There wasn't much in the way of vertical scratches. The overall image appeared to be rock solid and virtually free of any jitter or shimmer - very solid.

    The authoring and compression appears to have been handled perfectly as there are no artifacts to speak of, nor was there any indication of edge enhancement.

    Great job!

    Video: 4.5/5

    The disc is DD monaural encoded and for the most part is near flawless.

    Dialogue was always exceptionally clear and bold. Typical with many of WB’s classic titles, the track is absolutely hiss free and its fidelity doesn’t appear to have been hampered in any way, always sounding natural. There were no other noisy cracks or pops present either.

    A standout of the film is the wonderful Erich Wolfgang Korngold score which does a superb job accompanying this action yarn. It is obviously anchored front and center but is rendered quite nicely and never sounding harsh or strained when accompanying the non stop action sequences.

    Great job. A very nice soundtrack and another great example of how good a monaural track, can be.

    Audio: 4/5

    Special Features:
    Being a Warner film, The Sea Hawk is also loaded with special features including the Warner Night At The Movies which starts off with:
    [*] An Introduction By Leonard Maltin, who, once again, does an excellent job at introducing the various features and putting their importance and relevance in proper context. Duration: 4:02 minutes.
    [*] Up next is a Theatrical Trailer for Virginia City, a film that was made on the heels of Dodge City with much of the same cast but includes Randolph Scott and Humphrey Bogart. The trailer is in good condition. Duration: 1:59 minutes.
    [*] The Newsreel features British air battle footage and includes reports from Lowell Thomas, longtime respected CBS Radio commentator who reports on numerous downed German planes. Duration: 1:50 minutes..
    [*] Up next is Porky's Poor Fish, a B&W Bob Clampett LT animated short. Not much here in the way of dialogue for this particular short but it was nice to see this Porky the-pet-shop-proprietor for the first time and it looks to be in surprisingly nice shape. Duration: 6:48 minutes.
    [*] Alice In Movieland is the final feature included in the segment which is a short written by then-newspaper columnist, Ed Sullivan and directed by Jean Negulesco and stars Joan Leslie which an amusing tale of a young woman's search for stardom after her move to Tinseltown. Duration: 21:39 minutes.

    The next two features appear as standalones, the first is:
    [*] The Sea Hawk: Flynn In Action is an interesting little documentary which includes a number of participants including Lincoln Hurst, Rudy Behlmer and Robert Osborne among others. Discussions include everything from the original adaptation to the huge allotted WB budget - from the elaborate constructed soundstages and ships that were built for the film to the importance of Errol Flynn to the Warner Studio at the time. If Bette was the Queen, Errol was most certainly the King. The Marshall/de Havilland casting replacement as well as Korngold's magnificent score is also discussed. Duration: 17:31 minutes.
    [*] The Theatrical Trailer is also included which is in very nice shape. Duration: 2:22 minutes.

    There is a unique bonus disc that is included exclusively with the Signature Collection entitled, The Adventures Of Errol Flynn. This is a superb feature which was produced by Emmy winning documentarians Joan Kramer and David Heeley (Bacall on Bogart, The Spencer Tracy Legacy, The John Garfield Story and Katharine Hepburn: All About Me – all of which are fascinating). The feature is narrated by Ian Holm and covers everything from Flynn’s Tasmanian childhood to the height of his legendary career. Aside from the obvious biographical inclusions, the feature covers Flynn’s love of the sea, his legal and financial woes and his love for beautiful women. There are a significant number of home movie clips and various interviews including comments from his long time co-star, Olivia de Havilland. Rudy Behlmer, Jack Cardiff, Delmer Daves, Richard Dreyfuss and Joanne Woodward as well a number of family members among many others, make appearances throughout the feature. If you’re a fan of classic film, you’ll appreciate this documentary as much as any of the featured films – not to be missed. Duration: 86:41 minutes.

    Special Features: 4.5/5

    **Special Features rated for the quality of supplements, not the quantity**

    Final Thoughts:
    Whenever I watch an Errol Flynn film, the end result is always the same; I'm always left with a smile on my face. Sure, most of his films were action adventures - be it westerns or swashbucklers or war films, but the inimitable Flynn had a way of sending the subtlest message to viewers that perhaps he was never meant to be taken too seriously. Regardless of the uttered command or spoken order, he always finished with a slight but devilish look upon his face. I am always left in awe of the screen presence Flynn commanded - a presence that I don't believe has ever been surpassed.

    The Sea Hawk is a wonderful and delightful film and the perfect example of an adventure movie - from start to finish. In what is most definitely one of his finest performances, Flynn is wonderful, Korngold's score is magnificent and Curtiz' direction is masterful. The presentation is outstanding and the disc is trimmed with a healthy array of interesting and informative supplemental material.

    No doubt fans will want to (and should) seek out the Signature Collection resulting in a substantial savings as well as the exclusive bonus disc. A wonderful collection...!

    Overall Rating: 4.5/5 (not an average)

    Disc and Signature Collection - Highly Recommended...!!

    Release Date: April 19th, 2005

  2. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator

    Dec 9, 1998
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    Another great review that I concur with.

  3. Steve Christou

    Steve Christou Long Member

    Apr 25, 2000
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    London, England
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    Steve Christou
    Great review Herb. [​IMG]
    The Sea Hawks's my 2nd favorite Flynn classic after Robin Hood, definitely one of the greatest swashbucklers ever, with a fantastic score by Korngold.
    Can't wait to get my hands on the box set, I'll happily pay the customs charge on this one.

    I hope we eventually get a dvd of The Adventures of Don Juan (1948). I really wished it was included in this set, a hugely entertaining technicolor romp, with a great score by Max Steiner.
  4. Jeff_HR

    Jeff_HR Producer

    Jun 15, 2001
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    A GREAT film that I'll proudly add to my collection. [​IMG]
  5. Jack Briggs

    Jack Briggs Executive Producer

    Jun 3, 1999
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    Excellent! Thanks, Herb. This disc is a comin' my way.
  6. Bob Engleman

    Bob Engleman Stunt Coordinator

    Dec 14, 2000
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    Thanks for addressing the reason for B&W. As I watched Elizabeth & Essex, a film in which I've no interest, as it's far to dialogue driven for my taste, I couldn't stop wondering why color hadn't been used for The Sea Hawk.

    Bob Engleman
  7. oscar_merkx

    oscar_merkx Lead Actor

    Apr 15, 2002
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    great review indeed and cannot wait
  8. Russell G

    Russell G Fake Shemp

    Sep 20, 2002
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    Nice to see all the postive reviews on these discs! I got the set as a blind buy last week, but have only watched Captain Blood (your rigth about Errol Flynn, Herb, you can't help but smile at the end of Captain Blood.)

    I'm atching these in order of release, which meens I probably wont get to this until the weekend. Seeing as this is commonly refered to as Flynn's best work aside from Robin Hood, I think the wait is worth it!

    Another great review Herb, but really, can you maybe lie a little bit and knock the quality down? My wallet would appreciate a little less convincing on all these classic releases! [​IMG]
  9. Dennis Nicholls

    Dennis Nicholls Lead Actor

    Oct 5, 1998
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    Boise, ID
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    And you can't help but smile at the end of Cuban Story either, although sadly for other reasons. I wonder why Cuban Story wasn't in the Flynn box. :wink: It must be awful to "peak" so early in one's career. Hopefully my box set will be waiting for me at home tonight.
  10. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist

    Feb 8, 1999
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    Robert Harris
    Beautifully done, Herb. Great Job!

  11. Lynda-Marie

    Lynda-Marie Supporting Actor

    Jun 3, 2004
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    The only Flynn film I have ever seen was "The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood," shortly after seeing "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves." Funny how Kevin Costner got blown off the screen by a man who had been a little over 40 years dead, you know?

    It seems that I need to expand my Flynn collection. I almost considered a rant against you, Herb, because your review has me drooling like a baby for this set.
  12. John_S

    John_S Stunt Coordinator

    Mar 16, 2004
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    Thanks for the excellent review. My highly anticipated set arrived today!
  13. JackKay

    JackKay Second Unit

    Mar 27, 2004
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    You guys are going to make me want to buy the box.
  14. Roger Rollins

    Roger Rollins Supporting Actor

    Jun 19, 2001
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    You won't regret it. Even if it were twice the price, the box would still be the entertainment bargain of the year.

    The praise here is justified. The films, presentation, & extras are all wonderful and warrant repeat viewing.
  15. Douglas:H

    Douglas:H Auditioning

    Apr 23, 2005
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    Another awesome review, Herb! And as for those image captures - wow - they are to die for!

    "The Sea Hawk" is arguably Flynn's best film after "Robin Hood," and like you, it carries me to faraway places and always leaves me with a smile on my face! The DVD transfer here is breathtaking to behold and listen to, and makes the entire collection worth the price. And as you point out, the reason it wasn't shot in Technicolor is because if they had, they couldn't have used the older sea battle footage from the silent "Sea Hawk" and 1935's "Captain Blood." As Robert Osborne says, it's a great film to show people who don't like black and white!

    The word "classic" is so often overused, but here it is deserved - "The Sea Hawk" is a true classic!

  16. John Hodson

    John Hodson Producer

    Apr 14, 2003
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    Bolton, Lancashire
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    Having now had the pleasure of watching Warners new DVD of The Sea Hawk myself, there's no doubt in my mind it remains one of the finest slices of Hollywood entertainment ever, and Flynn remains one of the most charismatic of all its stars. Warners presentation is marvellous - it's not Casablanca perfect, but it is, at times, breathtakingly beautiful.

    Re the re-inserted footage, it's these sequences which appear to have suffered the most (though they are hardly unwatchable). I must say, there's nothing on this disc that I don't remember being enthralled by on many TV transmissions over the years, including Elizabeth's rallying speech, which was most prominently axed from Stateside prints.

    Herb's already got you salivating, and I'll give you my ten reasons why you must watch this movie:

    1) Errol Flynn; so much more assured than the slightly callow Flynn of Captain Blood, a true star, supremely confident, impossibly handsome and totally in command at the helm of this film.
    2) It's one of the great all time swashbucklers, a brilliant piece of entertainment. I can hardly believe that parsimony lead Jack Warner to fail to stump up the money for Technicolor (as some have said), having spent so many dollars on one of the biggest most complex sound stages ever. It's probably rather that they always planned to use takes from Captain Blood as cover; or a combination of both! Love that sepia sequence though...
    3) Claude Raines and Henry Daniell; two of the finest hissable villains in screen history at the top of their games.
    4) Flora Robson; born to play Queen Elizabeth, she effortlessly steals her scenes and is totally believable as the Virgin Queen.
    5) That damned monkey; try not to smile, go on, I dare you...
    6) Every swashbuckler worth its salt has a sword fight denouement and this is a cracker. Flynn can actually wield a rapier, Daniell couldn't; Curtiz danced round the problem with some nifty editing and superbly staged scenes. Shadow play? Love it...
    7) Erich Wolfgang Korngold. One of the best scores ever written by one of Hollywood's most talented imports - "Over the sea, over the sea to Dover; soon we'll be free, soon it will all be over; here we go...bound for home sweet home!" You'll be humming it for days.
    8) The casting; perfect, not a false note, from Brenda Marshall to Gilbert Roland, to Alan Hale, Una O'Connor...and am I dreaming or did I see Eric Portman in a very small part as a castle guard?
    9) Another bang up job by Warners; terrific presentation. If I had to be critical, it would be that there is no 'play all' feature on the 'Night at The Movies'. But then again, hey, there is a 'Night at The Movies', which is more than most other studios give us.
    10) Errol Flynn. 'Nuff said.

    Top stuff Herb [​IMG]

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