19 March 2009 | Lejink
I wasn't expecting too much of this later Errol Flynn vehicle, especially as it was taking on one of my favourite authors, my fellow-countryman Robert Louis Stevenson. However, while some of my fears were justified, on the whole I was well satisfied with this irreverent, knockabout swashbuckler.
It probably helps that it's years and years since I read the novel plus the movie also gained big "brownie-points" with me for not calling my countrymen "Scotchmen" and basically by filling up any pauses in the story with big action set-pieces, so that any gripes I may have had about authenticity and truth to source evaporated.
On the down side, there's no question that old Errol was getting on a bit, especially for this type of part. He seems far too old to be his brother's brother, if you follow me, never mind the rakish playboy figure he cuts at the start of the movie. That said, he's still undoubtedly a handsome man, in reasonable shape and still able to leap aboard a pirate ship or engage in a sword-fight to the death with almost the old panache. He's well supported by Roger Livesey who hams it up royally as an Irish adventurer (does anyone in this movie speak in their native dialect?).
On the debit side are devices like the stentorian-voiced announcer who makes "voice of God" interjections it seems every 15 minutes, the complete lack of suspense at Flynn's two supposed early demises (as if...!) and I can't resist saying it after all, the complete lack of even one authentic Scottish accent - Flynn doesn't even try. (I've checked the cast-list and not one is Scots-born!)
But with Jack Cardiff's sparkling photography (every frame seems bathed in an almost Rubens-ian like golden-light), some good if not "Robin Hood" - vintage sword-play and similarly good if not "Captain Blood" - vintage action on the pirate-ship, the movie proceeds with the pace of a page-turning Stevenson novel and before you know it you're at the finish as Flynn, Livesey (and Beatrice Campbell as his lover Lady Alison) evade the English Army's hangman's rope (hurrah!) and make their dramatic escape over the hills and far away.
A bit two for the price of one then, pirate action coupled with a historical-costume swashbuckler. Personally I rather enjoyed it and will consciously now not avoid, as I have been doing, Flynn's post-war work. More "used-to-be" than "has-been" and there is a difference.