In The Aviator, Jude Law played screen idol Errol Flynn as a debonair party drunk and mustachioed ladies’man. It might be an accurate depiction of the off-screen Flynn (who titled his memoir My Wicked, Wicked Ways) but those of us who esteem his films as uniquely pleasurable wanted a better accounting for the lovable lug. With this glittering five-film assembly, we finally get it.
A charming Australian whose curling smile and intent stare sometimes make him look like Russell Crowe’s movie grandpa, Flynn embodies filmdom’s greatest period adventurer. The set’s swashbucklers — Captain Blood (”All right, m’hearties, follow me!”) and The Sea Hawk — are two of the still-stirring classics he’s best remembered for. But the shock here is that his lesser-known Westerns nearly outshine the seafaring tales. In Dodge City, a witty sheriff-cleans-up-the-town Technicolor horse opera, Flynn meets cute his on-screen paramour de Havilland…by shooting her brother! They Died With Their Boots On, a biopic of General Custer, is the last of Flynn and de Havilland’s eight films together, rendering their on-screen farewell all the more poignant, even for tough guys. The one hiccup is The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex, a bizarre costume drama miscasting Flynn romantically opposite a gaudy Bette Davis, who yips like a Chihuahua as Queen Elizabeth I.
The extras are exceptional. The sixth disc is The Adventures of Errol Flynn, a terrific Turner Classic Movies doc on his boisterous and tragic life. And all five DVDs offer ”Warner Night at the Movies”: The WWII newsreels, Porky Pig cartoons, schmaltzy shorts, popping trailers, and making-of docs evoke a much better time capsule of the age of Flynn than that wicked, wicked scene in The Aviator. Blood, Hawk, Dodge, They Died: A Lives: B-