Reviews

The Errol Flynn Signature Collection, Volume 2 (1948)

Emma Simmonds

This second volume of the Errol Flynn Signature Collection spans the first decade of Flynn's career, offering considerable variety and a reasonable glimpse at the fabled lothario's on-screen range.


The Errol Flynn Signature Collection, Volume 2

Display Artist: Michael Curtiz, Raoul Walsh, Vincent Sherman, Edmund Goulding
Director: Edmund Goulding
Cast: Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, David Niven, Donald Crisp, Alexis Smith, Jack Carson, Viveca Lindfors, Robert Douglas, Basil Rathbone, Fred MacMurray, Ralph Bellamy
Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures
Distributor: Warner Home Video
MPAA rating: Unrated
First date: 1948
US DVD Release Date: 2007-03-27
UK DVD Release Date: 2007-03-27
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My Wicked, Wicked Ways

Publisher: Aurum Press Ltd; New Ed edition
ISBN: 1845130499
Author: Errol Flynn
Price: $17.95
Length: 464
Formats: Paperback
US publication date: 2005-02-25
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"One thing I always knew how to do: enjoy life. If I have a genius it is a genius for living." -- Errol Flynn, My Wicked, Wicked Ways

Errol Flynn: the famed Epicurean, drunkard, and womaniser. The adventurer, whose life was full and tumultuous, and who consequently expired long before his time. A man whose antics are widely believed to have spawned the popular expression “In like Flynn”, used to refer to an easy seduction. A Tasmanian Devil -- commonly cast as a swashbuckler or war hero due to his athleticism, gung-ho spirit, and remarkable matinee idol looks.

So goes the myth.

Errol Leslie Thomson Flynn was born in Tasmania in 1909. A bright, curious child, he first ran away from home at the age of seven and was gone for an astonishing three days. His naval ancestry inspired in him a passion for the sea -- his great love, which women could never rival. Abandoned by his parents to be schooled in Sydney, Australia, he avoided buggery and suffered academic disinterest. After the inevitable expulsion and, inspired by news of a gold strike, the fearless Flynn traveled to New Guinea, and later to England in 1933, where he earned his acting stripes in the theatre well enough to secure the star-making role of Captain Blood in Hollywood two years later.

To his chagrin, he struggled to build a serious reputation as an actor. Instead, as the years passed, he was held aloft, at first as a figure of fun and later an object of ridicule. He developed an intense dislike for the comedians of the era, who routinely mocked him and whose gags perpetuated this disrespect. His 1943 trial for statutory rape, for which he was found innocent, had a wounding effect on his morale, leaving him suicidal. And callously, in the aftermath, the allegations were used, by press and public alike, to label him as sexually transgressive and predatory.

Flynn, however, remained his own worst enemy. His affairs and exploits were exhibited carelessly in the public arena and he frequently played up to his dastardly reputation. One, self-confessed example: Post-trial, he paraded young, stark-naked female twins around his home as a salacious tidbit for visiting journalists.

His candid autobiography, My Wicked, Wicked Ways, both reinforces his reputation, by documenting his numerous real-life affairs and escapades, and fleshes Flynn out , revealing a keen intellect and self-awareness, which was nevertheless powerless in preventing him from lapsing into parody. The text entertainingly rattles through countless amusing and troubling incidents, painting its narrator as restless and eccentric. These range from: accidentally flinging his pet dog into the fire as an exuberant child; his tendency to buy animals when drunk, including an (unsurprisingly) volatile lion cub whom he later abandoned to a desk clerk; pretending to be a tramp with old mucker John Barrymore for kicks; his entanglement in the Spanish civil war; how he ostentatiously hired a Cuban orchestra to follow him everywhere he went; his habit of carrying around two false noses for quick disguise; his arrest after a fight in a Parisian lesbian brothel; and how he nearly came to blows with Bette Davis. And that’s just skimming the surface.

In Howard Hawks’ deliciously witty His Girl Friday (1940), star reporter Hildy (Rosalind Russell) snaps at her editor and ex-husband Walter (Cary Grant), “You are wonderful in a loathsome sort of way.” This seems to me an apposite way to describe the appeal of a typical Errol Flynn performance. He was part of a generation of cinematic rakes, their urbane appearances serving merely as a threadbare disguise for more wanton priorities. Whereas the abiding memory of the on-screen Grant is that he generally had the decency to focus his attentions on one, initially reluctant but eventually permissive, woman, Flynn, more commonly, and all too convincingly, assumed the role of philanderer (even if this tendency is only referred to in passing). He was held rigidly in this typecast for the bulk of his career. Whereas others were tamed or seemingly romantically redeemable, Errol Flynn, in character, stayed resolutely his own man. Only one of the films in the box set reviewed below, Gentleman Jim (1942), follows the trajectory of an ultimately fruitful courtship. As he takes the lady in his arms for the consummation of the clinch, he flippantly informs her, “I’m no gentleman”, thus shamelessly undermining the romance of the moment -- and assuring that the film’s title will be read as wittily ironic. In Dive Bomber (1941), he remarks, “As far as I’m concerned, a woman is like an elephant: I like to look at them but I don’t want to own one.”

Flynn possessed a potent combination of wily Antipodean energy and smooth as silk British charm. Unsurpassed by his peers in his depiction of brazen self-love -- a remarkable feat in an era that produced a wealth of cocksure rivals -- it’s as if he could see himself reflected back in the camera’s lens, and was permanently pleased with the handsome devil he found there. Thus, in purely reductionist terms, the screen Flynn can be perceived as the Narcissus of his time; the impression being that he never held another as dear as himself. His air of constant self-congratulation is such that a person of a prurient nature can almost imagine him in a permanent state of sexual excitement, generated from the knowledge that he is the Errol Flynn.

Off-screen, in his attitude toward women, he appeared to cement this reputation for self over all other. Referring to his three marriages he comments, “I have never married. I have been tied up with women in one legal situation after another called marriage, but they somehow break up.” However, Flynn is a pleasing contradiction. He recognised his flaws as a performer and the limitations they imposed upon him. He had an ambivalent attitude toward the concept of ego saying, “I am not usually regarded as an egotist, as an obnoxious or too-important person. I do not carry myself that way. But I don’t tell myself I don’t have the goods.” He designed an insignia, a monogram resembling a squarish question mark and had it sewn onto all of his suits, commenting, “This, my own confusion, became my trademark. My own questioning of myself.”

Casting his mind back to the making of Cruise of the Zaca in 1952, Flynn ruefully writes, “I had by now made about forty-five pictures, but what had I become? I knew all too well: a phallic symbol. All over the world I was, as a name and personality, equated with sex. Playboy of the Western World. That was me…How far afield had I gone from my early ambitions? Does any man ever set out to become a phallic symbol universally, or does this not rather happen to a man in spite of himself?”

The film Adventures of Don Juan (1948) had earlier explicitly played on this perception -- and his notoriety as a well-endowed man. During the commentary, director Vincent Sherman describes how the slinky costumes were designed to give him “prominence down there”, to the extent that a scene had to be re-shot because it appeared so outrageous. Sherman’s wife wrongly accused him of stuffing a towel down his tights, to Flynn’s embarrassment, and the film’s producers toyed with the idea of taping his manhood up as “the dancers do.”

Ever the self-analyst, Flynn sums up his life’s work in a modest fashion: “Maybe all that I am in this world and all that I have been and done comes down to nothing more than being a touch of colour in a prosaic world. Even that is something.”

from Gentleman Jim

Errol Flynn – Signature Collection Volume 2

Volume 2 is a collection of five films spanning approximately the first decade of Flynn’s career. It offers considerable variety and a reasonable glimpse at Flynn’s range, from the physicality of Don Juan and Captain Geoffrey Vickers in Charge of the Light Brigade to his more cerebral, almost mad scientist in Dive Bomber. Flynn displays a knack for broad comedy in Gentleman Jim and shows great sensitivity as a tortured pilot in Dawn Patrol.

Special features include Warner Night at the Movies showreels, with vintage newsreels, shorts, cartoons, and trailers presumably designed to help replicate the original cinematic experience and evoke the periods.

The Adventures of Don Juan (1948)

The highlight of the set, this tongue in cheek swashbuckler will have great appeal to modern audiences, with Flynn sending himself up in glorious style as the infamous lothario. Sumptuous sets, vibrant Technicolor, and playfully elaborate costumes combine for a visual treat. Flynn benefits from one (obscene) tights change and love interest after another. Such is his prowess that even the reserved, dignified Queen of Spain eventually falls for this upstart hook, line, and sinker. High-energy, relentlessly thrilling, and expertly staged, it is the only film of the set to feature a commentary, with Director Vincent Sherman and Historian Rudy Behlmer providing the insight. The occasionally dated humour includes the King’s dwarf companion whom he (gasp) refers to as “Monkey”, but who does get to swing a sword with the best of them. So that’s alright then.

Charge of the Light Brigade (1936)

A disappointingly turgid and overlong depiction of the events leading up to the scintillating charge itself – the only rousing moment of the film – which is an exhilarating 9 minutes at the film’s close. Flynn plays Captain Geoffrey Vickers, the canniest and most heart-achingly stoic member of the British Lancers, whose sage advice is routinely ignored to everyone’s detriment. An unnecessary romantic triangle shoehorns Olivia de Havilland into the action, with Geoffrey’s wet blanket brother, Perry, making a flimsy rival for the brave, toothy Flynn. The film is fatally hampered by a duff script. For instance, after the massacre at Chukoti, Flynn lamely comments, with regards the villainous Surat Khan, “We shouldn’t have trusted him. Those poor little kids. ‘orrible.”

The Dawn Patrol (1938)

A World War I drama focussing on a group of British fly-boys. Their Squadron Commander, Brand (Basil Rathbone), fumes at his impotent ground command before Flynn himself takes up this unenviable mantle. It has a vein of melancholy that gently pulses throughout, and a rich humour to it. On crashing his plane just shy of enemy territory, a topsy-turvy Scotty (David Niven) jovially grumbles, “I’m pointing the wrong way!” It is a film which memorably imbues the enemy with depth and honour. A handful of set- pieces keep things adequately thrilling and Flynn’s restrained, humane performance -- as a man who embraces his own fate and thus comes to embody the futility of war -- reveals him as an actor of substance.

Dive Bomber (1941)

A rather curious film, focusing on the unsung heroism of flight medics. Flynn, with characteristic enthusiasm, plays Doctor Douglas Lee, a maverick with crackpot ideas. Dismissed as a halfwit by his Lieutenant Commander (Fred MacMurray), he wins respect after inventing an inflatable pouch to be strapped to the pilot’s groin, ostensibly to prevent blacking-out, but which has the added bonus of being pricelessly comic during Errol’s po-faced test run. The subject matter doesn’t always make engrossing viewing; I audibly groaned when he announced excitedly that he was to turn his attention from blackouts to the “great unfathomable” high-altitude sickness. The largely laboratory-based heroics mean that it’s disappointingly low on tangible peril. It’s a film which is, by turns, admirable, bemusing, and deathly dull. It, thankfully, tempers its high technical content with snappy dialogue, but, in the end, it’s best put by Alexis Smith’s disgruntled Linda when she says, “You know I fly, too, but I’m not such a bore about it.”

Gentleman Jim (1942)

Billed promisingly by its trailer as “the gayest picture of the fighting forties”, this rollicking comedy is a shameless and historically inaccurate depiction of James J Corbett’s rise to boxing fame. Bouncing around like a kangaroo in his (then trademark) tights, Flynn apes Corbett’s high-speed artistic style with great flair, and the energy of his performance carries over to the non-sporting sequences. His infectious joie de vivre is a delight to behold, especially as he goads his stuffy “superiors” with his mischievous antics. In part, a celebration of the joys of drunkenness, its characters spend the majority of the running time in a state of high inebriation. Flynn, at one point, boasts “I come from a long line of drinkers. I can probably drink more than anybody in the world!”

6

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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