Adventures of Don Juan [1948]

The Adventures of Don Juan is more fun than its reputation suggests, but it inescapably plays as a footnote to Errol Flynn's swashbuckling career. The heroic, athletic figure that lunged, leapt, and sashayed through Captain Blood, The Adventures of Robin Hood, and The Sea Hawk had thickened a bit thanks to middle age and, not to mince words, booze. Accordingly, and with an eye toward the star's real-life aptness to the role of Don Juan, the picture is at least as interested in eliciting chuckles as serving up thrills. Flynn's creative partnerships with top action directors Michael Curtiz and Raoul Walsh were history. Vincent Sherman lacked their finesse and gusto, but he ably steers the actor past self-parody to a reasonably graceful performance. On the commentary track, Sherman (who died in 2006 at age 99) recollects that only once did Flynn arrive on set the worse for alcoholic wear; Flynn couldn't stand, so the director reblocked the scene with Don Juan seated while his bĂȘte noire, the Duke de Lorca (Robert Douglas in the Basil Rathbone part), strode around him deploying insults and rapier flicks. It's the best scene in the film. For latterday viewers, the real excitement is the vivid Technicolor. Part of the reason is that cinematographer Woody Bredell, who shot such pungent noirs as The Killers and Phantom Lady, lit the movie as though he were still working that black-and-white territory. The effulgent hues of the Oscar-winning costumes reinforce the effect. In a footnote to a footnote, the film was edited by Alan Crosland Jr., whose father directed the landmark 1926 silent Don Juan--and that film's action climax on an outsized palace staircase is echoed here. --Richard T. Jameson

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