Described as being one of Errol Flynn’s “best roles”, the stage for The Sea Hawk is set when Spain is preparing to launch her great Armada on the seas and the privateers (aka the Queen’s pirates) are the only ones standing between the mighty Spanish Empire and an unsuspecting England…
Amazingly enough, I first saw Sea Hawk way back last spring within a week of first viewing Rob Roy (talk about writing inspiration overdose!) and for that reason always tend to think of them together. (In fact, I’ve always felt a little badly that I didn’t have a review up for this one yet, though Rob Roy’s been up for several months)—so a big thank you to Hamlette for hosting her Piratical Blogathon, agreeing to my selection, and giving me a deadline to get it
First off, Errol Flynn as Captain Thorpe. Due to the piratical setting, I really can’t help comparing him here and in Captain Blood, and—in case you can’t tell—I’m quite absolutely and entirely thrilled! In fact, he acts like I always kept wanting him to in Captain B!! (And merely a personal preference here, no offense to the latter.)
Teasing and daring (I mean, he couldn’t be anything but, of course), but also serious-minded, level-headed, and in most deadly earnest.
(He goes through some pretty drastic personal and physical difficulties, too, and I…um…like daring and suffering heroes in extremely tight situations…)
There are a number of other jollily familiar faces, including “Prince John” from the 1939 Robin Hood as the heroine’s uncle. *spoiler* He’s still bad, but it’s not so slimy of a role, so that’s quite fun to see *end of spoiler* and he has real feeling for his niece.
And his niece Maria…I like Maria sooo much!! A lovely, soft-spoken yet determined Spanish beauty, she’s probably actually a big part of bringing the serious-minded tone to the story or rather—bringing it out so to speak—in the Captain’s role.
Dark-eyed and dark-haired, she wears some gorgeous Spanish lace gowns…and veils!
And her hair… Ah yes...her hair. (Yes, very).
The court shots are quite impressive.
And for a few production particulars: the grand, flourishing musical score was done by Erich Wolfgang Korngold (who also did the score for Robin Hood),
and the film was made on the—at the time—magnificent scale of $1.7-million, including the construction of two full-size ships!
There’s also an entire middling section done in sepia rather than black and white while *spoiler* they’re traveling down to and in Panama. And it’s very striking. You can almost feel all their heat and thirst and despair—it’s so heart-wrenching! *end of spoiler*
Intensity-wise, I think it’s a bit heavier than Robin Hood and possibly Captain Blood as well. The battles are pretty dramatic and there are lots of shots in the galleys and of the slaves, etc.
(Here I just have to add an editorial note: if this shows how gripping Sea Hawk is—I’ve been able to concentrate on this review while listening out of one ear to the opening episodes of P&P playing in the next room…wow! But then maybe switching between genres helped the entire process?? I did mention Austen’s merit in the writing inspiration category on another recent post, didn’t I? ;-))
But let us jump back two centuries again!
With Spain on the move piratical activities abound. Royal intrigue is conspiring to disband the Sea Hawks -- leaving the country open to its fate. The future of an entire nation is riding in the balance and the one man who can save the day is most hopelessly immured… But as Spain’s hand is extending to grasp the little country lying on the border of her mighty empire she’s reckoning without the cool-headed planning and brilliant, sure-handed action of one of the Queen’s own pirates!