It was said, at one time, that if Bette Davis was the queen of Warner Brothers, Errol Flynn was the king. And a king, too, with a lineage that was astounding, to say the least. The Tasmanian-born Flynn spent a few years as a young man in Papua New Guinea holding down jobs as varied (and in some cases illegal) as diamond smuggler, slave recruiter, gold prospector, sheep castrator, and manager of tobacco and coconut plantations, before washing up in the big bad world of cinema. Flynn’s first role was as his own ancestor, Fletcher Christian, a mutineer on the HMS Bounty; two years later, opposite Olivia de Havilland (who was a very distant relative of his), Flynn acted as the pirate Captain Blood—and the king of swashbucklers had arrived.
Strangely—considering that Errol Flynn is best known for his swashbuckling roles—the film I most vividly remember of his is this one, an unusual war film. I first watched it years ago as a teenager, and ever since—in spite of having notched up The Prince and the Pauper, Captain Blood, The Adventures of Robin Hood and other blockbuster Flynn hits—this remains my favourite Errol Flynn film. Touching, thought-provoking, and utterly memorable.
Guts. Glory. Revenge. Honour. Two brothers in love with the same girl. A tale based on Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s classic poem of the Battle of Balaklava, The Charge of the Light Brigade. Errol Flynn. What more could one ask for?
Well, much better scripting, for one. More believable settings for another, and less melodrama. Flynn, master swashbuckler, delivers as always in this film, but other than that, there wasn’t enough to make it a memorable one for me. Into the trashcan ride these six hundred.