Movie #121: The Sea Hawk (1940)

Director: Michael Curtiz

Starring: Errol Flynn, Brenda Marshall, Claude Rains, Alan Hale, Flora Robson

Academy Award Nominations (1941):

Best Art Direction: Anton Grot

Best Music, Scoring: Erich Wolfgang Korgold

Best Sound Recording: Warner Bros. Studio Sound Department, Nathan Levinson

Best Special Effects (Photographic Effects): Byron Haskin, Sound Effects by Nathan Levinson

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“Geoffrey Thorpe (Flynn), a buccaneer, is hired by Queen Elizabeth I (Robson) to nag the Spanish Armada. The Armada is waiting for the attack on England and Thorpe surprises them with attacks on their galleons where he shows his skills on the sword.” (from IMDB).

As a movie fan, I’m usually pretty easy to please.  In any film, even a terrible one, I try to find a redeeming and enjoyable quality.  Though I’m far more familiar with modern movies, this project (that I’ve apparently been on a very long break from) has expanded my horizons and helped me gain an appreciation for the different eras of film making.  Though I’ve seen a number of the major movies from Hollywood’s Golden Era, I would have never watched The Sea Hawk without doing this project.

The Sea Hawk is entertaining for its time.  The storytelling is good, there is a good balance of action and drama.  Dialogue is intentional and well placed.  There isn’t too much emphasis on the political elements or the action on the high seas.  The scenes in Queen Elizabeth’s court and aboard Thorpe’s ship complement each other and advance the story.  All the characters have their various charms, and the pacing worked.

Though I’m very limited on his work, it makes sense that this is probably one of Errol Flynn’s biggest roles.  He does a fine job of bringing out the various traits of his character.  He is calculated and reasonable in his action as a captain.  His character is beloved by his crew, dreaded by his enemies, and respected by his peers.  He also excels in his romantic involvement with Don Jose’s (Rains) niece Dona Maria (Marshall).  While the progression of their relationship is a bit cliché, it still works.

I came in with little expectation.  The pleasant surprise for me in this film was Flora Robson.  I’m familiar with Elizabeth I as a historical figure, and Robson’s performance was great because she demonstrates strength and reasonable judgement as a leader.  The scene where she puts the needs of her people ahead of what she personally believed was the best course of action as especially touching.  It was probably a combination of good writing, direction, and acting that made this scene stand out.

The Sea Hawk brought back Director Michael Curtiz, composer Erich Wolfgang Korngold and actors Flynn, Rains, and Alan Hale, a winning combination from The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938).  It’s been far too long since I’ve seen Robin Hood to make comparisons and contrasts between the two films, so all I can say is they found a formula that worked and so they kept it going.

Will I watch this one again? Probably not.

Am I glad I watched it? Yes.  The version I watched was the colorized version, so if I were to watch it again, it would be to see it in its original black and white format.

Would I recommend seeing it? Yes, as least once.

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Movie #59: The Wizard of Oz (1939)

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Director: Victor Fleming, King Vidor

Starring: Judy Garland, Frank Morgan, Ray Bolger, Bert Lahr, Jack Haley, Billie Burke, Margaret Hamilton, and Terry as Toto

The Wizard of Oz has always been a film near and dear to my heart as a native Kansan.  A number of small towns have yellow-brick roads going down main street, and it is something that’s synonymous with the state.  This is one of a number of films that I grew up with, and though I’ve seen it many times, I still enjoy it with each viewing.

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I was very skeptical when I first heard of Oz: The Great and Powerful, but my wife and I saw it a few weeks ago.  For the most part I was impressed.  I found it stayed faithful to the source material while avoiding the pitfall of being a cheap knock-off of the original.  The only change I would have made was to use someone other than Mila Kunis.  I’ve never cared for her as an actress, and that change is more my personal preference.

Released in 1939, this film uses a tremendous amount of color, and the eye-popping visuals and cinematography create a nice unique fantasy world of Oz.  There’s a nice contrast between the farm scenes in a sepia tone and Oz in full-color.

Judy Garland was 16 when The Wizard of Oz was filmed.  I have a hard time believing this, as she seemed so much older.  Her performance and talent make this film.  Frank Miller is also great in this movie.  He shows some range as the various people who greet Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion in the Emerald City.  The only other movie of his that I’ve seen is Shop Around the Corner, and I was taken aback at first because I’ve come to associate him as The Wizard and nothing else.

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The Wizard of Oz embodies a lot of the basic elements of a good film.  It offered a release and escape.  It was released at the tail end of the great depression and the beginning stages of World War 2.  Something like this would have provided a nice escape from everyday struggles and problems and whisk a person away to a fantasy land for a couple of hours.

The Mythbusters tested the effects of silver body paint and how a previous formula may have caused Buddy Ebsen, the original Tin Man, to drop out of the film.  Here is that clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4WUmBGzlyrc

The American Film Institute listed The Wizard of Oz as the #6 movie of all time in its first list, and 10th on the 10th anniversary list.  Additionally, “Over the Rainbow” was picked as the #1 song in the list, “100 Years…100 Songs.”  There are so many elements of this film that have integrated into popular culture.  Numerous lines, “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.” “There’s no place like home.”  “I’ll get you, my pretty and your little dog, too!” – #99  “Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!” and “I’m melting! Melting! Oh, what a world! What a world!” to name a few.

As stated before, The Wizard of Oz is a film near and dear to me.  I enjoy it in moderation now, but the songs, the story, and the acting never get old.  I look forward to sharing this film with my future generations.

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

All Quiet on the Western Front (1930), a look back.

As I said in my previous post, I have watched 231 movies thus far in the Revised and Updated 501 Must-See Movies book.  Now that I have undertaken the task of reviewing each, there are quite a lot to go back and review.  I am currently watching Stalag 17, and while I’m watching, I will review All Quiet on the Western Front (1930).

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A few excerpts from the book:

“Based on Erich Maria Remarque’s novel, this devastating film was a milestone in anti-war movies, particularly as it is an American movie seen from the German side.  The penultimate scene, when the young soldier sees the beauty of a butterfly amidst the carnage, is justly celebrated…So realistic were these sequences that they have often been used in documentary films of the war.”

There were a number of things that impressed me with this movie.  The progression of story, level of acting, and effects given the time period all contributed to an excellent story with a unique perspective.  As the book so said, this was an American movie written from the German perspective.

The movie follows seven idealistic school boys who sign up for the army after an enthusiastic teacher gives an impassioned speech about how patriotic and dutiful it would be for them to join the war effort.  I found it interesting listening to virtually the same speech when Paul Braumer, one of the boys, returns back to the same classroom a couple of years later.  It’s very different given what had happened in the hour or so of the movie, a number of those original seven killed, and the Braumer gives a more realistic view of what takes place during war.

The idealism very quickly vanished from the original 7 soldiers the story follows.  One of the tougher scenes to watch was when Braumer got into a hand-to-hand fight with a French soldier, and the result haunting Braumer for the rest of the film.  As with the actual war, the movie starts with the Germans very successful but ultimately running out of resources, and men, the war effort seems futile.

I cannot imagine how war would change someone.  It makes me think how much more carefully countries ought to be before entering into war. I am sure this movie was effective in bringing this to the forefront of American society.  It is movies like this that bring something such as the hardships of war into discussion.

I would recommend this movie, but it’s one that I would probably not want to watch more than a couple of times.

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars.