When America went to war, so did Hollywood. They fought the enemy on the backlots of Los Angeles, the outskirts of Malibu and the soundstages of Burbank. They spared no star to make sure moviegoers knew that this was an all out conflict. Errol Flynn might have recently become an American citizen, but he was ready to take up arms against the cinematic Axis of Evil. Five of his best wartime efforts have been collected on TCM Spotlight: Errol Flynn Adventures. There were critics who wondered why the dashing star in his mid-30s hadn’t joined the army. Flynn attempted to enlist. However he was classified 4-F because of recurrent malaria, a bad back, tuberculosis and VD. The studio hushed up their athletic star’s medical reports since they didn’t want people to think their swashbuckling hero was about to fall over dead or give them the clap. Thus rumors persisted that Flynn had ducked his obligation. Seems that the best thing he could do for America was fight the fake fight to inspire others.
Desperate Journey (1942 – 108 minutes) crashes a British bomber in Poland. The international crew led by Errol Flynn head toward freedom. He’s lucky that his crew includes Ronald Reagan, Alan Hale (father of the Skipper on Gilligan’s Island) and Arthur Kennedy. They end up getting caught by the Nazis. During their escape they nab major intelligence. Now the Nazis really need to catch them. It’s a unifying story for the allies. Director Raoul Walsh keeps up the pursuit pace. Edge of Darkness (1943 – 119 minutes) makes Flynn a Norwegian fisherman. A few years after Nazi occupation, Flynn wants his town back. Things are complicated since a popular local girl has hooked up with the sadistic Nazi overlord. She doesn’t want her boyfriend to go home – no matter how many neighbors they kill. There aren’t that many Norwegian World War II films which is a shame since this film does work with a cost including Ann Sheridan, Walter Huston and Ruth Gordon. Director Lewis Milestone would go on to direct the legendary Ocean’s Eleven.
Northern Pursuit (1943 – 94 minutes) keeps Flynn in a cold climate. He’s now a Canadian Mountie on the trail of a Luftwaffe Officer that’s crashed in his territory. Trouble is he’s too trusting of the Nazi pilot to the point where his Mountie boss thinks he’s a German sympathizer. Eventually the Nazi uses their slight friendship against Flynn. Once more director Raoul Walsh brings out the best in Flynn as the friendly Mountie. Uncertain Glory (1944 – 102 minutes) swings him into Nazi occupied France. While on death row awaiting execution, an Allied bombing raid frees him from his prison. During his escape, a crucial bridge is a victim of sabotage. The Nazis announce that they’ll round up and kill 100 French citizens if the real bomber doesn’t come forth. After he’s caught, his French captor convinces Flynn to confess to the bombing since he’s slated for death anyway. When they head to the area to make him look as guilty as possible, the local cop doesn’t want to take the plea. Walsh has a dramatic film that allows Flynn to act and not just run around with a gun. Objective, Burma! (1945 – 142 minutes) is the big bad attack action flick. Flynn leads his crew into a parachute drop into the jungle to take out a Japanese communications center. Things get hairy when the escape plan collapses. Walsh once more brings the mayhem with the bullets and testosterone pumping across the screen.
While Errol Flynn might not have been able to join the army for a variety of aliments, he worked his damage body hard to make the Allies look good. The five films on TCM Spotlight: Errol Flynn Adventures have him playing a variety of nationalities so he’s not just the same soldier fighting around the globe. Uncertain Glory alone shows this isn’t just the gung ho warrior schtick. In the end, Flynn gave as much as he could to the war effort without infecting every WAC preparing for D Day.
The video on all the films is 1.33:1. The black and white transfers look great for their age. Flynn’s dashing matinee star looks glow. The audio is Dolby Digital mono. The bombs and bullets mix well with Flynn’s voice. French Dolby Digital 1.0 dubs are available on Desperate Journey, Northern Pursuit, and Uncertain Glory have French dubs. Desperate Journey, Edge of Darkness, Northern Pursuit, and Objective, Burma! have Spanish dubs. Subtitles are in English, Spanish and French.
Desperate Journey Vintage Newsreel (2:32) is “Nazi Disaster in the Snows of Russia.” The German war machine takes a beating in the cold. The Tanks Are Coming (20:04) follows a NYC cabbie learning how to handle a really heavy vehicle. Borrah Minnevitch and His Harmonica School (8:51) presents a mouth harp orchestra in matching sweaters. The United States Army Air Force Band (10:16) gives more patriotic tunes during this time of war. The Dover Boys at Pimento University or the Rivals of Roquefort Hall (8:51) brings surrealistic touches to a nostalgic piece. Three college boys and their virgin sweetheart must fight off an evil pool shooter. Desperate Journey Trailer (3:00) promises us a teaming of Errol Flynn and Ronald Reagan. Murder in the Big House Trailer (1:45) is a crime flick.
Edge of Darkness Vintage Newsreel (1:34) announces supply ships are arriving in the Soviet Union. The United States Service Bands (10:06) presents patriotic tunes from the various service bands. Hiss and Make Up (8:02) lets a dog and cat sabotage each other to tick off the old lady. A classic Merrie Melodies cartoon directed by Friz Freleng. To Duck….or Not to Duck (6:36) puts Elmer Fudd and Daffy Duck in a boxing ring. Edge of Darkness Trailer (2:16) reminds us what people do for freedom. The Hard Way Trailer (2:11) brings the Ida Lupino sizzle.
Northern Pursuit Vintage Newsreel (1:23) covers the rise of bootleg booze during the war years. The Rear Gunner (20:25) drafts Burgess Meredith into a B-24 bomber piloted by Ronald Reagan. Can the Penguin and the Gipper save America? All-Star Melody Masters (7:38) is a fine selection of orchestra action. Over the Wall (20:48) is a live action short about a priest tracking down a prisoner. Hop and Go (7:13) is a Looney Tune about Kangaroo Claude Hopper and rabbits from Scotland. Northern Pursuit (2:14) promises “a Mighty Avalanche of Adventure.” The Constant Nymph Trailer (3:33) isn’t about that kind of nymph.
Uncertain Glory Vintage Newsreel (2:28) is also “Nazi Disaster in the Snows of Russia.” United States Coast Guard Band (9:39) plays patriotic songs with Lt. Rudy Vallee. Brother Brat (7:13) conscripts Porky Pig to babysit for a female welder. The baby turns out to be advanced for his age. Frank Tashlin directed it. Russian Rhapsody (7:04) is a Looney Tune with the Germlins from the Kremlin taking it straight to Hitler when he pilots a bomber to Moscow. Uncertain Glory Trailer (2:14) promises “a story so unusual.” The Mask of Dimitrios Trailer (2:14) opens with Sydney Greenstreet talking straight to the camera. This tale of a man with multiple identities looks great. Peter Lorre joins in the mystery with his old Casablanca co-star.
Objective, Burma! Theatrical Trailer (2:15) takes us into the reporter’s notebook to let us know this story is the most exciting story of the war correspondent. Pride of the Marines Trailer (2:15) tells the story of Sgt. Al Schmid. He’s the one man army. Commentary by Historians Rudy Behlmer, Jon Burlingame and Frank Thompson does a good job giving context to the film and Franz Waxman’s score. Vintage Newsreel (3:58) has U.S. Rangers freeing troops from a Japanese prison camp in the Philippines. So You Think You’re Allergic (11:08) is a Joe McDoakes short starring George O’Hanlon, the future voice of George Jetson. Why does he sneeze in the Spring? This is a comedy full of itching, scratching and phlegm. Classic Cartoon A Tale of Two Mice (7:29) is a Merrie Melodies cartoon featuring the Babbit and Catstello mice. Can you guess which comedy duo are being spoofed? Babbit has the plans for stealing cheese and he wants the pudgy Catstello to follow the instructions to foil the cat. Guess who keeps failing?
TCM Spotlight: Errol Flynn Adventures provides the finest of his wartime themed films. He goes around the world to remind us why we must fight the Axis powers. There’s pure joy in the return of Warner Night at the Movies with the cartoons, shorts and newsreel. The vintage films play best with cartoons. This boxset is five nights of proper cinema entertainment.
Warner Home Video presents TCM Spotlight: Errol Flynn Adventures. Directed by: Raoul Walsh and Lewis Milestone. Starring: Errol Flynn, Ann Sheridan and Ronald Reagan. Boxset Contents: 5 movies on 5 DVDs. Rating: Unrated. Released on DVD: August 3, 2010.
Joe Corey is the writer and director of "Danger! Health Films" currently streaming on Night Flight and Amazon Prime. He's the author of "The Seven Secrets of Great Walmart People Greeters." This is the last how to get a job book you'll ever need. He was Associate Producer of the documentary "Moving Midway." He's worked as local crew on several reality shows including Candid Camera, American's Most Wanted, Extreme Makeover Home Edition and ESPN's Gaters. He's been featured on The Today Show and CBS's 48 Hours. Dom DeLuise once said, "Joe, you look like an axe murderer." He was in charge of research and programming at the Moving Image Archive.