Sunday, March 3, 2013

Adventures of Don Juan (1948)

Director: Vincent Sherman                             Writer: George Oppenheimer
Film Score: Max Steiner                                Cinematography: Elwood Brendell
Starring: Errol Flynn, Viveca Lindfors, Alan Hale and Robert Douglas

After a string of highly successful films for Warner Brothers, adventures, war films and westerns, the studio attempted to create a role for Errol Flynn that was tailor-made for him, drawing on his reputation as a womanizer, with comedic dialogue, plenty of sword fighting and a rousing Max Steiner score in order to make the quintessential Flynn film. Unfortunately, Adventures of Don Juan catches the star past his prime and tries a little too hard to capture the excitement and freshness of his prewar films. As a result, the film falls flat. The Technicolor extravaganza is just too over the top to be believed, too corny to be comedic, and too staged to be exciting. The result is a near parody of the Flynn films of the past.

The film begins with Flynn romancing another man’s wife, and narrowly escaping by posing as the future wife of the daughter of an English lord. Of course, he is saved from death by the influence of the Spanish ambassador and sent back to Spain as an envoy to stop war between the two countries. The queen, Viveca Lindfors, married off to an ineffectual king, must watch as the devious Robert Douglas bends the king’s ear and steers the country toward war and conquest. A nice supporting cast is along for the ride, but they have very little to do. Alan Hale is great, as always, but as Flynn’s sidekick and nothing more, he has little to do. Una O’Connor has little more than a cameo. And Raymond Burr’s corpulence makes him instantly recognizable.

Almost immediately one notices the deficiencies in the direction of Vincent Sherman, who had done a couple of Bette Davis films for Warners, but nothing else of note. And with Flynn’s biggest hits being directed by the likes of Michael Curtiz, the step down in quality is obvious. On screen, it’s looks at times like a mash-up of The Sea Hawk, The Adventures of Robin Hood, and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Flynn, of course, is his usual ironic self, half winking to the audience in every scene, barely able to contain a smile. But by this late date he’s unable to carry the film himself--if he ever was. Even The Sea Hawk suffers from the absence of his frequent co-star Olivia de Havilland, and without the masterful direction of Curtiz, Adventures of Don Juan is a second-rate Flynn film at best. But it is vintage Errol Flynn, and as long as it’s not taken too seriously, a fun romp with one of Hollywood’s real Don Juans.

No comments:

Post a Comment