Monday, August 08, 2022

Tonight's Movie: Adventures of Don Juan (1948) - A Warner Archive Blu-ray Review

The great Errol Flynn stars in ADVENTURES OF DON JUAN (1948), just released on a beautiful Blu-ray by the Warner Archive.

Flynn plays Don Juan de Marana, a love 'em and leave 'em ladies' man who is perhaps tiring of his endless romances with a series of beautiful yet forgettable women.

When Don Juan inadvertently wrecks a marriage of state in England, planned to ease tensions between Spain and Britain, the Spanish ambassador (Robert Warwick), an old friend, sends Don Juan home to Spain to reform and be of service to Queen Margaret (Viveca Lindfors).

The Queen is trying to prevent war between Spain and England, but her easily influenced husband King Phillip (Romney Brent) is under the sway of the evil Duke de Lorca (Robert Douglas) who is fomenting war.

Don Juan is captivated and impressed by the honorable queen, discovering that for the first time in his life he's truly in love -- with a woman he cannot have. She's also in great danger...

I had never seen ADVENTURES OF DON JUAN before, despite my great enjoyment of Flynn. I think partly the idea of him romancing an entire series of ladies instead of being truly in love with, say, Olivia de Havilland, as he was in so many films, put me off a bit. Perhaps at the back of my mind I was also thinking of the story being somewhat of a parallel to Flynn's own rough living offscreen, which would age him far too young.

I was pleasantly surprised at the outset to find that the screenplay by George Oppenheimer and Harry Kurnitz, based on a story by Herbert Dalmas, is quite funny. (Believe it or not, novelist William Faulkner is said to have done uncredited work on the script.) The film could have been distasteful, but it handles Don Juan's romances with a light and amusing touch.

And what a bunch of lovely ladies they are! When we initially meet Don Juan, he's wooing Catherine (Mary Stuart of THUNDERHOOF and THE CARIBOO TRAIL). Soon after, he's reunited with a past love played by Helen Westcott (THE GUNFIGHTER). Later on in a tavern he meets Barbara Bates; one of the other beautiful girls in the tavern is played by Caren Marsh, in her last film. Marsh turned 100 in 2019 and as far as I know is still with us today; if so, she is now 103.

The final lady, other than the Queen herself, is played by Ann Rutherford, in one of her last feature film roles. By the time Rutherford's character throws herself at Don Juan, he is tiring of the game playing and ready to retire from the field.

Flynn is by turns funny and moving, and all in all does an excellent job conveying the way Don Juan gradually becomes a more serious man...but maybe not too serious, as we see at the final fadeout.

Lindfors is a regal queen, and I liked her better in this than in the handful of other films I've seen her in; she's been a bit wooden in some of the other films and is better directed and photographed here, giving a deeper performance.

Alan Hale (Sr.) is top-notch as Don Juan's loyal friend; a scene early on where he scopes out Don Juan's likely means of escape from their latest "situation" is hilarious. It's fun watching Flynn and Hale together in this a full decade after they played Robin Hood and Little John in THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD (1938).

The deep cast includes an almost unrecognizable Raymond Burr as an evil soldier, with Fortunio Bonanova as Don Juan's fellow fencing instructor. Also in the cast are Douglas Kennedy, Jean Shepherd, David Bruce, Una O'Connor, Aubrey Mathers, David Leonard, Harry Lewis, Jerry Austin, and Albert Cavens.

Cavens' father, fencing great Fred Cavens, was the film's fencing master and doubled Robert Douglas. Jock Mahoney was also among the stunt crew, doubling Flynn. The excellent action sequences include a climactic duel between Flynn and Douglas (or, perhaps, their doubles) on a spectacular grand staircase at the palace.

The movie runs 110 minutes. It was directed by Vincent Sherman and filmed in Technicolor by Elwood "Woody" Bredell. The superb score is by Max Steiner.

The Warner Archive Blu-ray print is outstanding in every way.  The color is spectacular, and Steiner's robust score sounds fantastic.

Extras imported from the film's original DVD release are a commentary by Rudy Behlmer and Vincent Sherman and a "Warner Night at the Movies" collection of the trailer; a newsreel; a pair of shorts, SO YOU WANT TO BE ON THE RADIO (Joe McDoakes, 1948) and CALGARY STAMPEDE (1948); and the cartoon HARE SPLITTER (1948).


Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray. Warner Archive Blu-rays may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection Amazon Store or from any online retailers where Blu-rays are sold.


Blogger dfordoom said...

I found this movie to be a pleasant surprise as well. Definitely worth seeing.

6:07 PM  
Anonymous Barry Lane said...

An absolutely terrific picture and you have nailed it. I have the DVD and as you may imagine saw Don Juan at the Rivoli Theatre in Rutherford, New Jersey at the time of its release. Always loved it. A word about Raymond. Even then, the kids knew who he was.

7:00 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

DforDoom, so glad to know you enjoyed it also! It's always great to put in a new-to-you movie and discover it's a good one!

Barry, thank you so much. I envy you those very special movies of having seen it theatrically when it came out -- and how interesting that even early in his career Raymond Burr was making an impression!

Best wishes,

6:57 PM  

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