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Friday, June 4, 2010

THE SEA HAWK (1924)

Warners’ famous 1940 version of THE SEA HAWK (w/ Errol Flynn) only used the title of Rafael Sabatini’s swashbuckling story. But this 1924 silent production, from First National which merged with Warners, does the tall-tale proud. Frank Lloyd is remembered for helming prestige items like MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY/’35, CAVALCADE/’33 & the marvelous IF I WERE KING/’38, with Ronald Colman & its clever Preston Sturges script, but this plot-heavy revenge story shows a bounce & sparkle largely missing from his later work. As the wronged nobleman who becomes the Allah-loving ‘Scourge of Christendom,’ the forgotten Milton Sills is hunky, melancholy, stalwart & phenomenally effective.* As the slightly dense damsel Sills yearns for, Enid Bennett just needs to be rapturously pretty, a task lenser Norbert Brodin can only occasionally pull off. (It’s a plump little face, but see how she’s transformed once she dons Arab dress in Algiers.) The rest of the big supporting cast is just great, with Wallace Beery on good form as an (almost) honorable Pirate King. And what a whirlwind of a story. Once the situation & characters are set up, it’s comes at you with the definition of a good graphic novel and the zip of a proto-RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK. Tremendous stuff, great fun. *For more Sills see MISS LULU BETT/'21, on DVD & on this site.

CONTEST: The Robert Israel organ score on the excellent Warners Archive DVD is fine, though certainly no match for Korngold’s 1940's masterpiece. It’s mostly Classical ‘Pops’ stuff, but he does pull off a sly joke thanks to Hector Berlioz. Figure it out to win our usual prize, a MAKSQUIBS Write-Up on the NetFlix DVD of your choice.

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