Captain Blood is the archetypal high seas swashbuckler set in the seventeenth century. The film tells the story of an Irish doctor called Peter Blood (Errol Flynn) who is convicted for treason for treating a rebel during Monmouth rebellion and sent as a slave to the Caribbean, only to be bought by the colonel's niece, Arabella (Olivia De Havilland). However, Peter Blood and his fellow slaves manage to escape. They steal a Spanish ship and sail the seas as pirates!
The film was released in 1935 and was hugely successful but Warner Brothers chief Jack Warner and chief executive Hal B. Wallis had taken a huge risk in hiring the then-unknown Errol Flynn. This was his debut lead performance and he is quite outstanding as the wronged doctor. Flynn became an overnight sensation but it must be remembered that the film provides many other pleasures too! Despite being modestly produced, the film is superbly directed by the Hungarian-American Michael Curtiz with all his unusual camera angles, shadows, camera movement and subjective camera styles very much in evidence from the beginning. The film is also noted for the stirring score by the highly acclaimed Erich Wolfgang Korngold whose career with Warner Brothers and Errol Flynn went from strength to strength, peaking at the inspirational score for The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938).
Along with Flynn, the performances from the cast are outstanding, most notably from Basil Rathbone as evil French Pirate Levasseur and Olivia De Havilland (in her her first major role) as Arabella. Lionel Atwill is convincing as the sinister Colonel Bishop and so is Ross Alexander as Blood's friend Jeremy Pitt. Alexander's performance seems more touching when we learn that he was a troubled soul who committed suicide shortly after the release of the film.
The screenplay is expertly written by Casey Robinson (based on the novel by Rafael Sabatini), Captain Blood is no history lesson but pure classic Hollywood entertainment! RATING *****