Withering Bites

“‘Lucky Jim’ Goes to the Internet”

Captain Blood: Then, Then, and Soon. February 13, 2009

Filed under: Adaptation,Captain Blood,Courtney,Michael Curtiz,Raphael Sabatini — noisyhope @ 11:05 am

I apologize for the lateness of the post and its apparent spottiness.  I have neither the book nor the film in front of me as I type.  I do, however, have much of the film memorized; it’s one of my favorites and I can be assured that it will improve my mood after viewing.

The 1936 film starring Erroll Flynn was based off a novel by Raphael Sabatini, who penned the adaptation I will discuss next week, Scaramouche.

The differences between the original text and the film are remarkable.  Characters are missing, stories are dropped, and Curtiz delivers only a fraction of the story.  Lavasseur’s arrival in the plot feels about as haphazard as the arrival of the evil vampires in Twilight, the novel.  Something just doesn’t qutie ring true about “Hey, we’re both pirates in Singapore, let’s work together, this can’t end badly!”  It does, however, give us another opportunity to watch Basil Rathbone lose a duel; and root for Olivia de Haviland as she spurns Flynn in a way that Miss Melanie Wilkes would most certainly not approve.

I also feel far too biased to really talk about whether or not the film is a successful adaptation.  I feel like it should say “inspired by,” perhaps, as it can be seen as a very loose translation.  I read the book two years ago, but after the movie had been in my life for twenty.

I think what people would first remark upon would be Flynn as Blood.  While he does carry out many of Blood’s personal traits; his cunning, his acerbic wit, his dedication to his fellow man and initial reluctance to condemn himself and his men to a life of piracy; he bears no physical resemblance to the character’s description.  I am going from memory here, but I recall Sabatini describing him as short, with dark feature and barrel chested.  Hardly what you see here.

I know I’m not giving the best analysis, but hey.  It’s Friday the Thirteenth, and I’m sure we all have a helluva weekend planned.  My inspiration behind posting this is that there are now rumours (and a blocked off iMDB page) of “Captain Blood” to be released in 2011.  I’m still  pondering if I want to see the book adapted, or watch someone try to top Flynn and deHaviland’s performances.

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One Response to “Captain Blood: Then, Then, and Soon.”

  1. Bob Walker Says:

    The premise of Ms. Mcgrath’s review of “Captain Blood (and warning us of its remake!)” is right: the book is better than the movie.

    But what a movie! In his entertaining book, The Hollywood History of the World, the late, great George MacDonald Fraser celebrates it as the finest of pirate films, and waxes eloquent over director Michael Curtiz’s ability to recreate late 17th century prisons, plantations, pirate ships etc. with a “candle-lit” viewpoint that Sabatini hopefully appreciated. Curtiz only had 2 hours to work with, and the book would best be served as an epic miniseries — providing Playtone does it.

    And, for all my money, there has never been a better marriage of film and music than the split-second crescendo that climaxes Blood’s duel with Levasseur. Turn up the volume: it’s only rivaled by Elmer Bernstein’s sad strings walking away with Daniel Day-Lewis in “The Age of Innocence,” and the opening credits of “The Big Country” by the underappreciated Jerome Moross.

    “Captain Blood” remains one of the greatest adventure films of all time, but Ms. McGrath is right; if you’re looking for a wonderfully well written story, read the book. It’s still in print, and the Sabatinis can use the money.


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