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Sunday, May 28, 2017

THE BLACK SWAN (1942)

The Warner Bros swashbucklers with Flynn/ Curtiz/Korngold handling swash, meg & score, especially the seafaring ones, must have been the despair of other studios. Impossible to best for romance/sweep/derring-do, with an unexpected emotional charge tapping into the war effort & FDR’s Four Freedoms. (Even before he made the speech in 1941.) That said, this is a good example of the competition and still comes across pretty well. Ben Hecht’s script makes quick work of a twisty plot that has three factions of pirates (good/bad/wavering) in constant conflict, while international alliances shift & legit government turns corrupt. All the while, shirtless buccaneer Tyrone Power competes with inconveniently engaged ruling class Maureen O’Hara to see who’s prettier. (She wins, but it’s a close call!) The big cast deliver, especially George Sanders hiding behind a big red beard, peeking under O’Hara’s bed-sheet!; and under a splendid period wig, Laird Cregar as real-life pirate Henry Morgan. Director Henry King hasn’t Michael Curtiz’s dynamism (he’s better at contemplative/slow-burn) and scorer Alfred Newman was no Erich Wolfgang Korngold (who was?), but they’re both in good form. Be aware that a new Blu-Ray edition has significantly sharpened the richly TechniColored DVD of 2006 to fine effect.

DOUBLE-BILL: Power’s best swashbuckler is landlocked, THE MARK OF ZORRO/’40, guided by Rouben Mamoulian’s feel for Southern Border atmosphere & his signature rhythmic direction.

ATTENTION MUST BE PAID: Memory can play tricks, but doesn’t the archival cut contain a couple extra minutes near the opening for pirate pals Sanders & Power to carry on about what they plan to do with the captive beauties at their feet?  Bowdlerized for modern sensibilities?

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