The Sea Hawk
Kudos must go to Warner Home Video for the transfer they've given to Michael Curtiz's The Sea Hawk (1940); it was one of the handsomest laserdiscs ever issued by MGM/UA back in the late '80s, but this DVD literally runs circles around that set, in terms of clarity, crispness, and brightness, so much so that the laserdisc transfer resembles a worn 16 mm when stacked up against the 2005 digital disc release -- various shots in the opening sea battle are so crisp that they look almost 3-D. The producers have used the slightly extended British edition of the movie, which actually runs 127 and a half minutes and contains the short extension of Flora Robson's final speech, which was only originally seen in the U.K. prints of the film. The transfer, in full-frame (1.33:1), captures the luster of the original release and, also, all of the richness of Erich Wolfgang Korngold's score -- the 34 chapters are well selected and downright generous in breaking down the plot. The disc comes with an uneven array of supplements. Leonard Maltin hosts "Warner Night at The Movies 1940," explaining, in notably unsubtle fashion, how The Sea Hawk would have been presented in theaters in the 1940s. That's a lead in to the Errol Flynn Western Virginia City, a newsreel about World War II and the Battle of Britain, the short Alice in Movieland and the punning cartoon Porky's Poor Fish. Much more impressive among the extras is the featurette "The Sea Hawk: Flynn in Action." Historians Lincoln D. Hurst, Rudy Behlmer, and Robert Osborne discuss the making of the movie and the personalities behind it, most notably Flynn's. Evidently, Flynn was so impressed with Flora Robson and the idea of working with her that he was better prepared for their scenes together than he had been in almost anything he ever did onscreen; Henry Daniell, by contrast, was a superb actor and a great villain, but was totally unable to handle a sword for the climactic fight, which had to be put together using doubles and lots of shadow images. The Sea Hawk trailer is actually derived from the reissue of the film -- in tandem with The Sea Wolf -- for which the original movie was edited down by over 20 minutes. The disc opens automatically to a multi-layered menu that's well-labeled and easy to maneuver around. Overall, it isn't as impressive as the special edition done on The Adventures of Robin Hood, but given the quality of the movie itself, this title is just as essential for one's collection.