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The swashbuckler had been around long before Errol Flynn drew a cutlass, but the Tasmanian-born bit player reinvigorated the genre with his mix of dashing good looks, haughty insolence, and alluring confidence. Adapted from the novel by Rafael Sabatini (who also penned The Sea Hawk), this rousing adventure chronicles the travails of Peter Blood (Flynn), a righteous doctor unjustly sold into slavery for treating the wounds of rebels, a kind of British Dr. Mudd. Sent to a Jamaican plantation where he toils under the brutal whip of Lionel Atwill and seethes with passion for his fair niece (the astonishingly beautiful Olivia de Havilland), he escapes from bondage with his fellow prisoners and becomes the gentleman rogue pirate of the Caribbean. Director Michael Curtiz builds from one set piece to another, including a nimble beachside sword fight with pirate nemesis Basil Rathbone and climaxing with a grand sea battle that belies the film's modest budget. Flynn's bravado and charisma are apparent from his entrance, but once he leaps into action he takes command of the picture, overcoming his still-green dramatic skills with sheer personality. Captain Blood made stars of Flynn and de Havilland and catapulted Curtiz to the top ranks of Warner directors. The three reunited for some of the studio's best-loved adventures: The Charge of the Light Brigade, The Adventures of Robin Hood, and Dodge City. --Sean Axmaker
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