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-