An Irish convict sentenced to hard labor in Australia escapes into the outback, and organizes a band of fellow escapees to fight a corrupt landlord.An Irish convict sentenced to hard labor in Australia escapes into the outback, and organizes a band of fellow escapees to fight a corrupt landlord.An Irish convict sentenced to hard labor in Australia escapes into the outback, and organizes a band of fellow escapees to fight a corrupt landlord.
CAPTAIN FURY (Hal Roach, 1939) ***
Although lower-tier Hollywood mogul Hal Roach is deservedly best-known today for nurturing many legendary comedians over the years (especially the greatest comic duo in film history, Laurel and Hardy), his production company also made other types of movies with the TOPPER movies (2 of which I have recently watched) and the celebrated original version of OF MICE AND MEN (1939; which I have just acquired) being arguably their best 'extracurricular' ventures. To a much lesser degree, Roach was a director himself and the well-crafted and, in hindsight, unjustly forgotten adventure film CAPTAIN FURY is perhaps his finest personal effort; for the record, I have recently also come across the prestigious prehistoric epic ONE MILLION B.C. (1940; starring Victor Mature and Lon Chaney Jnr.) and, on account of my positive experience with the film under review, plan to check it out presently. Anyway, CAPTAIN FURY may not strictly be swashbuckling fare but it is clear that Roach was following the classic Robin Hood/Zorro templates in this story of the titular Irish rebel (Brian Aherne) exiled to an Australian penal colony headed by a brutish landowner (George Zucco) who is also harassing the nearby settlers. Bonding with the fellow inmates particularly incorrigible, thuggish thief Victor McLaglen and a sickly philosopher John Carradine Aherne soon escapes to rouse the settlers against their oppressor. The excellent cast rounded up for this action-packed and amiable romp (that, for a 70-year old movie, features at least one extraordinary stunt involving a horse leaping down a waterfall!) is completed by the familiar faces of top-notch character actors like Paul Lukas (as a religious fanatic initially opposed to Aherne for setting sights on his daughter), Douglas Dumbrille (as Zucco's henchman), Charles Middleton, Claud Allister, Lumsden Hare, Mary Gordon, Edgar Norton, Billy Bevan, etc. Like the film itself, Aherne is a largely forgotten actor nowadays despite having portrayed the legendary figure of King Arthur twice on screen in PRINCE VALIANT (1954) and LANCELOT AND GUINEVERE aka SWORD OF LANCELOT (1963) but, seeing him cutting such a dashing figure here in the Errol Flynn mould, made me want to check out more of his work and, indeed, his Oscar-nominated turn as Emperor Maximilian in William Dieterle's star-studded biopic JUAREZ (released just one month prior to CAPTAIN FURY) should be just around the corner! It is always so refreshing to take these nostalgic trips to the lightweight entertainment Hollywood provided during its Golden Age and, as in previous occasions, I have the former sexton friend (and renowned film buff) to thank for introducing me to this rare gem via his personal (and understandably hazy) 16mm print.
- Mar 11, 2009
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