Captain Blood (1935)

dir. Michael Curtiz. Set during 17th century England, a physician unbelievably named Peter Blood (Errol Flynn) is sentenced to death for tending to the wounds of a soldier who was part of the Monmouth Rebellion. Blood is spared the noose by a “whim” of King James II, who decides to sell the “traitors” as slaves in the Caribbean. Doctor Blood uses his medical skills to engineer an escape, steal a warship, and become the feared Captain Blood! This is the film that transported unknown Australian actor Errol Flynn to stardom, after the wonderful actor Robert Donat (star of THE THIRTY NINE STEPS (1935)) passed on the role. While Donat may have brought more menace to the role, Flynn is a delight, and convincing as the put-upon physician, and excitable buccaneer. I think I can hear Flynn’s Australian accent at times. This was the first big American hit for director Michael Curtiz, who would go onto direct CASABLANCA (1942). While most of the action is left to the finale, there is a thrilling duel between Errol Flynn, and Basil Rathbone as the elegant French pirate, Levasseur. Despite the gruesome title, the bloodiness of piracy is largely skipped over, leaving Flynn’s Captain Blood relatively unbloodied. A large part of the story, and romance, draws parallels between the morality of piracy, compared with human slavery. This intriguing theme is unfortunately abandoned when Captain Blood’s personal freedom is restored. Sadly, there is no Caribbean slave rebellion. Clearly the filmmakers preferred to cast the ultimate villain a French admiral, rather than an English slaver. 

By Nicholas Hudson-Ellis

Co-Founder & Film Programs Manager of Bangkok Screening Room.