Aug 17, 2022

On Blu-ray: Errol Flynn in Adventures of Don Juan (1948)


Adventures of Don Juan (1948) marked Errol Flynn’s return to the swashbuckling genre that made his name after a nine-year absence. Though more seasoned and slightly humbled by life, Flynn is as dashing as he ever was in a story that amusingly mirrored his own active love life. The film looks and sounds magnificent on a new Warner Archive Blu-ray I recently viewed. 

Flynn’s Don Juan has been so busy with the ladies that he can’t remember the names of his conquests anymore. Escaping his latest scandal, he takes on employment as a fencing instructor for the Spanish monarchy. He has been accepted by Queen Margaret (Viveca Lindfors) thanks to the encouragement of a mutual friend. 

In his time at the royal court, Juan falls for the reserved queen. He also uncovers a Duke’s (Robert Douglas) devious plot to overthrow the monarchy and go to war with England. While he predictably wins the queen’s heart and conquers the duke, his response to these victories reflects a newfound wisdom in both character and actor. 

Overall this is a triumphant return to swashbuckling for Flynn. The production itself is grand, from the jaunty (if a tad repetitive) Max Steiner score to the impeccably detailed beauty of the sets and costumes. For lovers of the genre and star, this film delivers. 

I came away less satisfied with some of the casting; not because it wasn’t good, but rather because it paled next to the more brilliant pairings in Flynn’s past. Swedish actress Lindfors is an appealing queen, but her chemistry with Flynn is so flat that when they finally find themselves in a romantic clinch, it doesn’t make much sense. Likewise, Robert Douglas is a worthy villain as the duke, but his heavy-handed fencing style made me long for the fleet-footed elegance of Basil Rathbone. 

Special features on the disc are DVD carryovers including commentary by director Vincent Sherman and historian Rudy Behlmer, a Warner Night at the Movies 1948 short subjects gallery including a newsreel, the Joe McDoakes comedy short So You Want to Be on the Radio, the travel short Calgary Stampede, the cartoon Hare Splitter and a theatrical trailer. 

Many thanks to Warner Archive for providing a copy of the film for review.

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