Swashbuckler Fest 2014

SwashBuckler Fest 2014

I decided after watching this really great compilation of Errol Flynn Sword Fights that my Film Prof from almost 30 years ago posted on facebook, stating that he always wants to watch ‘Swashbucklers’ this time of year.  I am a huge fan of such movies myself, be they the typical Pirate movie, or the Samurai and Ronin of Japanese cinema, I love a great sword fight.

So I decided to do a quick four night, four movie Swashbuckler festival. I first instinct was to reach for the store copy of Captain Blood, then see what else we had, more obscure, maybe. But then I remembered that I had at home, a cheapie ‘boxset’ of ‘ Great Pirate Movies” that I got somewhere on sale. It has four Swashbucklers on it, including one of my all time faves, that I hadn’t watched in maybe ten years, Scaramouche. But that movie is on disc two.

- Directed by George Sherman

The first picture though, and rightly so, was a Flynn, an Errol Flynn who is The Swashiest Buckler of them all (aside maybe from Fairbanks Sr.) in this late career Pirate tale that has a trio of great performances from the aforementioned Errol Flynn as Royal Navy undercover agent Brian Hawke, Anthony Quinn as a swarthier than thou, Pirate Captain Roc Brasiliano, and last but not least; a dynamite Maureen O’Hara, as the Lady Pirate Captain ‘Spitfire’ Stevens. And quite the Spitfire she is, with the greatest wardrobe of big shouldered Pirate Lady outfits and ball gowns, all of which come with a derringer and a knife. 

The premise and plot are pretty standard fare, and luckily all the real effort is put into some great swashbuckling action scenes. The film starts with Flynn being flogged, and reacting not in screams of pain, but moans of pleasure, that put me in mind of the old Drive In Movie routine from Cheech & Chong where they are parodying such scenes. The Flogging is to make it appear as though he’s being drummed out of the Navy (something to do with a female passenger? believe- able, he’s Errol Flynn.) and is getting a real flogging so nobody thinks he’s a spy.

Everybody thinks he’s a spy. Especially Anthony Quinn’s Captain Brasiliano, he never buys The Charm school stuff that makes all the ladies in the picture, just a bit weak in the knees. He is trying to infiltrate an infamous Pirate Republic, and set up the pirates so that the Navy can come in and clean the place up. Errol Flynn is not a convincing double agent, but he’s freaking Errol Flynn, he oozes a very dated sort of machismo that is palpable onscreen, and people just go along with his vague need to rage against the machine.

The Pirate Enclave actually seems pretty orderly. Everyone wears fine silks and hugely bold colours, a great many of the men wear skirts or culottes that look like skirts. The colour palette of this group of free spirited thieves and murderers is technicour-ific. the supporting players also deserve a mention, all the small parts have character, and everyone with lines gets a chance to shine. I adored Alice Kelley as the Princess Patma, and her Scots Nanny Molvina MacGregor, played by veteran character actress Mildred Natwick, who steals scenes from everyone.

The sword fight set pieces are as good as any. Spitfire Stevens is a very modern woman despite being an 18th century Pirate, she gets a chance to show off her own formidable stage-fighting skills and athleticism in the climatic final sword battle. She gets a chance to fall back into a strong irish brogue when she gets her fur up over the constant advances of both Quinn, and Flynn. 

I’m really glad I chose this picture first. It’s a first rate bit of Errol Flynnery, with a nice side helping of great supporting cast, and the richest colour palette this side of Robin Hood. A Ripping yarn as they used to say, ripping. Against all flags is well worth your time if you can track it down.

8.9999 Scots Nannies with loaded pistols in their knickers outta 10


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