Thursday, August 19, 2010

DVD Boxed Set Review ~ TCM Spotlight: Errol Flynn Adventures

Errol Flynn. Saving the world, one country at a time.

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:


  1. Edge of Darkness may seem formualic in plot but man that is one heavy duty picture, one of Flynn's best from the 40's imo, and that goes double for Objective Burma. both of those are much grittier than the standard glossy flag waving war pictures from that time. intersting that you liked Desperate Journey the best! i still have yet to see Northern Pursuit :(
    the one other Flynn war film that is a must see imo is Dawn Patrol.

  2. Great write up! I just watched Edge of Darkness on Errol Flynn's SUTS day and I've been wondering if I should splurge on the DVD boxed set. I knew Objective Burma was a good flick, but I wasn't sure if the others were too. You've got me most excited to see Desperate Journey.

    Btw, I've been a lurker here for awhile and I was wondering if you'd be kind enough to link to my blog: Dereliction Row

    I feel like I need to be less of a loner and mix it up more with my fellow old movie fanatics. :D

  3. This was a great review! :-D

    Hopefully, I'll get to see Desperate Journey sometime! That was the one that looked so amazing to me...and now after you're review it sounds even better! :-DDDD

    Great post!

  4. I've always had a soft spot in my heart for Operation Burma. It is different many of the Errol Flynn movies, which do seem to follow a formula. This makes me want to watch the movies again!

  5. Thanks for this nice review. I almost bought this set - picked it up then put it back on the shelf. I was going to get it mainly for Errol Flynn but, not being the biggest fan of war films, wasn't sure if I wanted the whole set - but it sounds like it is worth having in the collection.

  6. Something you may not know about Objective Burma is that this film was banned for a few years in Britain and condemned by Winston Churchill, because it implies that the war there was won by the Americans when in reality it was almost entirely British & Commonwealth troops who fought there. Understandably a lot of people with direct experience of the war - ex-soldiers and so on - took offence and I believe that Erroll Flynn's popularity took a dip in Britain for a while. When they eventually 'unbanned' it, there was a message inserted paying tribute to the real troops. I remember this controversy coming up again a few years ago when the movie U571 came out (in which the American cast capture the Enigma machine in reality captured by the British) and comparisons were made. Just an interesting thing to bear in mind, although of course many fine films play fast and loose with the historical realities!

    I read your blog often, with enjoyment, and have been meaning to post for a while. When I was your age and younger, I too was obsessed with old movies but in a pre-internet time, I just recorded my thoughts/reviews in a diary as I didn't know anyone else who was interested. I think it's great that people can now share their obsessions across the world.

  7. Great review, as always, with plenty of sideways laughs. I must see Objective Burma now, especially after I enjoyed Beyond Rangoon so much, though I will keep Andrea's comment in mind and remember that a feature film is not reality (luckily, neither is reality).

  8. What's also interesing about "Objective Burma" was that Dalton Trumbo wrote the screenplay. Trumbo was later blacklisted in Hollywood, plus he was the screen writer behind a string of classic films, including "Spartacus" and the noir "Gun Crazy." Trumbo also wrote the fine anti-war novel, "Johnny Got His Gun." By the way, I've never posted here before, but I enjoy your blog!


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