Errol Flynn Westerns (4 Discs) (R) product details page

Errol Flynn Westerns (4 Discs) (R)

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Much better than its reputation, San Antonio, in glorious Technicolor, is a slam-bang, no-nonsense Western filled with stand-out action sequences and performances. Although often negatively compared to Errol Flynn's earlier Warner epics, San Antonio, with sweeping tracking shots contrasted by more intimate but equally dramatic character delineation, stands on his own merits and to some extent bridges the gap between the romanticized empire-building spectacles of the late '30s and the postwar Western noirs. The great Warner stock company, including French import Victor Francen and a quietly menacing Paul Kelly, adds immeasurably to the overall tenor of the film, as does Max Steiner's grand score. Although Steiner has been accused of borrowing from himself -- an odd complaint considering that all the studios endlessly recycled their in-house scores -- San Antonio remains one of the most musical of A-Westerns and the Academy Award nomination for Ray Heindorf, M.K. Jerome, and Ted Koehler's lilting leitmotif "Some Sunday Morning" was more than deserved. Garbed by Milo Anderson with an eye on Technicolor, heroine Alexis Smith is a sight for sore eyes and imbues her stock assignment with more gusto than you would ordinarily expect. Among the other highlights of San Antonio are veteran B-Western star Tom Tyler's dramatic death walk and a climactic gunfight that seamlessly progresses from Francen's posh saloon into the streets of historical San Antonio to culminate, inevitably, in the ruined Alamo. All, of course, staged to maximum effect at the Warner Bros. back lot by a director, David Butler, rather unfairly known solely for his many lightweight musicals and comedies. Hans J. Wollstein, All Movie Guide

Although Virginia City claims that it has a basis in historical fact, that's mostly wishful thinking on the part of its creators. It hardly matters, as Virginia is an entertaining enough little western even with nothing more than a brief nod to historical accuracy. There are, however, a few kinks in its screenplay that do get in the way of it being a better movie. The whole idea of the Confederacy trying to "sneak" an immense load of gold into the South through several hundred miles of open territory is a bit hard to take. Even harder to take is the film's attempt to be "even handed" in dealing with the Civil War; the studio seemed too concerned with possibly insulting viewers in the South and so the real conflict (and potentially resulting drama) is downplayed to a large degree. There also are some casting choices that hurt Virginia a bit. Foremost among these is a ridiculous Humphrey Bogart (complete with a teeny little mustache) playing a Mexican outlaw and convincing absolutely no one that he is from south of any known border. Miriam Hopkins also does not convince as a saloon singer who is also a spy for the South. Errol Flynn is miles ahead of these co-stars, but even Flynn comes across as a mite wooden; he's got style and flair, but his heart doesn't seem to be in it. Fortunately, there are no complaints about Randolph Scott, and the supporting cast does its job well. Michael Curtiz directs with a sure hand and gets the most he can out of the adventure sequences; if his work here is not among his best, it's still more than adequate to the task at hand. Craig Butler, All Movie Guide