Thursday, August 19, 2010
DVD Boxed Set Review ~ TCM Spotlight: Errol Flynn Adventures
This assignment came as a surprise. I'm not a war movie type of gal nor do I watch many Errol Flynn flicks. In fact, I was looking forward to another blogger reviewing this boxed set. However, the stars aligned and it seemed like Errol and I were meant to be together, for nine hours at least. Errol Flynn, although gone some 50+ years, was already charming me with his bad boy image and delicious accent (which may or may not come from lips that are dressed by a killer moustache). So watching this boxed set was just meant to be.
Watching this was far more enjoyable than that Film Noir Collection Vol. 5 atrocity I recently reviewed. Possibly because I came to the experience with no expectations. It also helped that the collection of films were pretty even in quality and content. In fact, I had looked forward to tasting something different than my usual fare.
In one way the films in the set are formulaic and run-of-the-mill. Errol Flynn's character fights against Nazis in 4 out of 5 of the films and all 5 are WWII films dripping with patriotism or anti-German/anti-Japanese sentiment. The first three are almost completely identical in terms of basic plot. It was like having three chocolate cakes, each with different frostings.
Desperate Journey (1942) - Errol Flynn plays an Australian who becomes a prisoner of war when captured by the Nazis. He must try to escape and fight against the Nazis for the sake of his country.
Edge of Darkness (1943) - Errol Flynn plays a Norwegian who becomes a prisoner of war when he is lined up for execution by the Nazis. He must try to escape and fight the Nazis for the sake of his country.
Northern Pursuit (1943) - Errol Flynn plays a Canadian who becomes a prisoner of war when he is held hostage by underground Nazis. He must try to escape and fight the Nazis for the sake of his country.
The next two are a bit different which is refreshing after watching the first three.
Uncertain Glory (1944) - Errol Flynn plays a professional criminal in occupied France who is about to go the guillotine. An air bomb kills everyone in the prison, except for him, just as he is about to be executed. He is captured by a French officer who has been following him for years. Nazis have 100 Frenchmen held hostage and will execute them if the person responsible for bombing a bridge doesn't come forward. Flynn and the officer work out a deal to save the 100 Frenchies but things get complicated when Flynn falls in love.
Objective, Burma (1945)- No Nazis here. Two American troops are dropped off in Burma to complete a mission of blowing up a Japanese radar site. Everything goes well but just as they are about to leave things get really complicated.
No matter how formulaic the first three may be, watching all 5 films back-to-back provides you with a very varied WWII-movie watching experience.
Things I enjoyed about the boxed set:
1) Errol Flynn takes you on adventures through Germany, Norway, Canada, France and Burma. Movie goers back in the mid-1940s must have felt like they were traveling the world with Flynn. I know I did.
2) Each DVD has a set of extras including short films, war-related newsreels, musical numbers, cartoons and movie trailers. You can set up the DVD so as to watch all the extras first before watching the movie. This kind of gives you a cinema-experience in your own home. And while many of the extras are strange or just plain propaganda, they are still fun to watch.
3) Desperate Journey was by far my favorite film. It was funny, suspenseful and at certain points quite sad. Flynn and his tag team of soldiers are being chased by the Nazis and it's fun to see how they escape over and over again. The scene where Ronald Reagan's character deceives a Nazi general by confusing him with double-speak is hilarious!
4) Objective, Burma is worth the purchase of this set alone. You follow the troops through everything. While they are on the plane, making their way through the jungle, waiting for an approaching group of Japs, etc. You don't get the highlights, you get every single excruciating moment. Sometimes the minutae is just as interesting as all the guts and glory.
5) The boxed set design is gorgeous as are the last few Warner Bros. sets I have reviewed.
Interesting to note: Errol Flynn was the quintessential war hero on screen during the 1940s however unlike many other stars (such as Clark Gable, Jimmy Stewart, Burgess Meredith and Ronald Reagan), he never fought during WWII. Not that he didn't try. He attempted to enlist in almost every branch but his poor health. IMDB says he had a bout of malaria and tuberculosis on top of back problems and a heart condition. I'm sure it didn't help that he was an alcoholic with a penchant for opiates. Even though Flynn didn't fight on the battlefield, he did help bring homebound Americans in the 1940s adventure tales and gave them a sense of what was going on abroad. If anything, that's a service in itself.
The TCM Spotlight: Errol Flynn Adventures is available right now (and I think it might be on Blu-Ray too). If you enjoy war films or like classic adventure stories, I highly recommend this set.
Full disclosure: A special thank you to Warner Bros. for sending this to me for review!
Here are a couple clips for you to enjoy: