Confessions of an Errol Flynn Fan, Part One

09 Jul

Why do we sometimes love movies that we know are bad? I’m talking about bad films like Plan 9 from Outer Space. It’s horrid; a piece of claptrap with bad acting, lousy special effects, an even lousier script. Plan 9 from Outer Space defines the phrase “bad movie.” It’s director, Ed Wood, has become a cult figure decades after his death because he made a whole bunch of really bad films, and maybe because he also liked to wear women’s clothing now and again. It’s star, Bela Lugosi, would die before filming was completed. He was replaced by Tom Mason, a chiropractor with no previous acting experience. Mason also didn’t look anything like Bela Lugosi. The other cast members walk about as if they’ve all just realized they had a lobotomy and boy did it hurt! But Plan 9 from Outer Space isn’t the worst film ever made, in fact, I would go so far as to say it’s not the worst bad film in a list of the world’s two hundred lousiest films ever made, although it’s certainly on the list, somewhere in the middle.

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Cuban Rebel Girls is on that list, too, somewhere near the top. The Adventures of Captain Fabian is on that list, but just barely. When people use the phrase “bad film” I think of Plan 9 from Outer Space and Cuban Rebel Girls, among others.


Filmmakers don’t set out to intentionally make bad movies, but they happen all the same. I recently watched an Alan Ladd film, One Foot in Hell, an early sixties oater with a literate script by Aaron Spelling, but the movie was awful. What went wrong? The film has two problems: First, Alan Ladd looks idiotic in this film. Age and alcoholism had given him a round, chubby appearance. And for some reason they have Ladd wearing a lopsided little hat rather than the traditional Stetson. His appearance is comical. Secondly, the direction, pacing, and even some of the acting is uninspired. This is one of those movies where the hero throws a punch and you can see it sweep past without touching the villain’s chin. And when people get shot in One Foot in Hell they clutch their chests and say “Aaahh” before falling down.


I think there are several elements that qualify a film for the distinction of being bad: hammy acting, or worse, people who can’t act but wish they could act and who end up just speaking their lines. Such was the case with Plan 9 from Outer Space. Other requisite elements include a lackluster screenplay and a lackluster director. Poor writing and a director who spends too much time fussing over his angora sweaters is a recipe for disaster. In the case of Cuban Rebel Girls it was several of these elements plus the fact that the male lead, Errol Flynn, who could indeed act was just too sloshed to act on the days they happened to film his scenes. However, even if Flynn had been awake Cuban Rebel Girls would still qualify as a “bad film.”


I think sometimes we enjoy watching bad movies because there’s a little bit of the voyeur in all of us. That, and the fact that sometimes it’s fun to watch a film self-destruct. But perhaps I should leave the arm-chair “psychological theories” to the “experts” in the audience. God knows, there’s enough of you…


Elsewhere along the cyber highway and across the digital sea and aboard a ghost ship I have expounded less than eloquently on Dive Bomber. Some folks just don’t like it. They think it’s a “bad film.” Not enjoying a film is not necessarily justification for calling it a “bad movie.” Take Million Dollar Baby directed by Clint Eastwood. The ending outraged many. It involved a character’s moral, personal decision to take a life. Holy Rollers of all manner attacked Eastwood, forgetting that films are works of fiction. Eastwood was telling a story, and just because you don’t agree with a character’s actions doesn’t mean it’s a bad film.


A great many Errol Flynn fans don’t like Never Say Goodbye. They tell me “It’s a bad movie.” I tell them to get a life. Never Say Goodbye is neither bad nor great which makes it good at some nominal level.


This doesn’t mean the film doesn’t have its share of problems, because it certainly does. For example, something about Flynn’s physical appearance in this film has always bothered me. He doesn’t look quite right which is either the result of lackluster cinematography or he was handled improperly by the make-up staff. I can’t quite put my finger on it. It’s evident in the stills, too. Maybe it’s his nose. Did Flynn have his nose broken and then skillfully reassembled by a plastic surgeon? I’m speculating because his profile looks out of kilter in some subtle way.


But there are many elements in Never Say Goodbye that work effectively. Flynn is good at playing a commercial artist. My guess is that Flynn could relate to his character’s artistic temperament, and a modern romantic comedy clearly appealed to him. Eleanor Parker is excellent as his wife and the modern setting is refreshing after seeing Flynn in so many period films. And I think that’s the problem Flynn fans have – they want the eternal champion, not a businessman with marital problems.


Never Say Goodbye isn’t a life-changing film, but it’s not the “bad movie” some would have you believe. It is one of several Flynn films that I believe is too easily dismissed. I also like Mara Maru and The Big Boodle. You see, the thing is this – I’m an Errol Flynn “fan” and not an Errol Flynn “critic.” This means that it’s likely that my brains are oozing from my ears.


No matter, later I’m going to tell you why <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />Montana shouldn’t be missed…


That’s my rant on that topic.

Keep rockin’ and best wishes always.

— Shamrock


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  1. Anonymous

    July 9, 2007 at 3:24 pm

    Having just watched Dive Bomber this weekend, I loved it! I saw lots of negative reviews online, and poo-poo on them… Amazing cinematography, especially seeing all the early 40's war machines in color! Errol subdued as a doctor was a nice switch, and I liked the scenes of animosity with Ralph Bellamy, Fred MacMurray, and EF and how later they all came to be each other's ally, very believable. Both my wife and I spent many hours researching air pressure suits this weekend, as a result of that movie, and were amazed that most of the real breahthroughs in pressure suits came AFTER Dive Bomber, so to me it was a real groundbreaking film.
    I, too, have a hard time finding things to pick on with EF films. I understand your point of feeling like a voyeur, trying to figure out what was really going on, I like looking past the movie itself, and the more I learn about EF, the more I enjoy watching his films and piecing them together with what I know he was going through at the time he was filming them and see if there are any clues to his mindset or emotions at the time.
    Let me say, I find I do this with my own films, as an actor I have a hard time getting into the story of any film I'm in, because watching them just reminds that, “Oh, yeah, while we were shooting this scene, Bob was really sick and vomiting between takes…. and this day was the day we couldn't stop giggling… and man, remember when that actresses top fell off when she came out of the pool?, etc, etc…”
    The films you mention I could watch over and over. Yes, Cuban Rebel Girls is a technically bad film, but so what? I get to see EF and Bev, I get to see Cuba in the 50s, same goes for Cuban Story, as for Never Say Goodbye, I thought it was a cute film, plus it gave me the opportunity to see EF as a doding-father-figure.
    I think too many people watch movies with the mindset that they HAVE to find things about it to nitpick. My wife and I really hate critics who love to share their personal opinions with movies… just tell me what the story is about, tell me how it looked, etc. but I'll decide if it was a good or bad movie.
    I can't even find anything wrong with The Golden Shanty, too damn intriguing too watch EF at that time, especially the more back story you know, plus it tells a good little story in it's short running time.
    One interesting side note though, my wife commented to me last week after we watched Rocky Mountain, and also after we viewed King's Rhapsody, hell, even after seeing Strange Auction, that of all the EF films we've watched and all the leading ladies he's shared screentime with, she felt he had the least chemistry onscreen with Patrice Wymore, hmmm? A ladies perspective… and one person's observation, but I thought it interesting that she felt that.
    By the way, I really liked Footsteps In the Dark & Escape Me Never & Lilacs in the Spring, no matter what anyone says. I like all the varied sides of EF, not just the swashbuckler or cowboy or war-hero.
    To all the naysayers and critics out there I say this… my grandmother used to always tell me that EVERY restaurant was worth ONE visit, same goes for movies! Never, never, never take it on yourself to tell someone to NOT see a movie! Tsk, tsk…
    My two cents.

  2. Anonymous

    July 9, 2007 at 10:58 pm

    Great Scott!
    I just realized this post was invaded by the ITALICS MONSTER!
    Dave – quick! – before it's too late, break out the “Anti-Italics Monster Repellent” from your utility belt!

  3. Anonymous

    July 10, 2007 at 5:00 am

    any reason why it hasn't posted my comment from this morning?

  4. Anonymous

    July 10, 2007 at 2:17 pm

    I LIKE ITALICS no matter what the CRITICS SAY!

  5. Anonymous

    July 10, 2007 at 2:29 pm

    Hello, Chum! I didn't notice that your comment was being monitored by the blog system as possible SPAM! Yikes! Took care of it now! On my way to work, so will get out of here. I wonder if you would like to become an author on the blog? Just sign up as Peter's EF Club and I will set your author privileges when I get home later if you'd like to come aboard? I will also be extending an author invite to Becky…

  6. Anonymous

    July 11, 2007 at 2:25 pm

    Thank you sir! I still haven't received my note, but I'm looking forward to it as much as a little kid looks forward to Christmas!
    I really appreciated the comments on “Footsteps”, I have to confess I'm a huge fan. I love the fashions in it, the plot is somewhat witty and amusing if you grew up in a small town where things like the Tuesday Club really do exist, and it's just a great cheesy romp B-movie mystery romp.
    My biggest objections to the film itself are the fabulous harbor scene, which appears to consist of a toy boat in a bathtub. Even that scene lends to the charm of a “bad” movie! And I'm sad that there wasn't more of a part for Turhan Bey. Even these two objections can't overcome the silly good time that you can have watching this movie. :-)
    And on Alan Ladd and ridiculous headgear. First, it's hard to take “Saskatchewan” as a serious film. Although I personally detest Shelley Winters in this film, the main credit for silliness goes to Alan Ladd's Mountie hat. It looks like a Mountie hat I found in my dad's toy chest, along with his complete Hopalong Cassidy set. Alan Ladd's hat is so funny and so small that I had to laugh out loud everytime I saw the hat, something that my film viewing companions didn't appreciate.
    Secondly, I've recently had the privilege of viewing “The Black Knight”, thanks to a renowned Arthurian scholar who's actually written several articles on the film. The helmet and suit of armor Ladd's blacksmith character makes for himself in this one is completely insane! The people at Camelot look like people you wouldn't dare to sit next to at your local pub for fear of catching disease or having your pocket picked. The supporting cast is pathetic and Ladd looks in certain scenes like he's completely wasted or completely bored. An interesting production credit for Albert Broccoli.
    “Duel of Champions” is a dreadful Italian sword-and-sandals flick made with a old and beatup Alan Ladd. Terrible. Bad. Ridiculous. Funny (if you've enjoyed a couple of drinks). Painful otherwise, especially if you're a fan and can remember why he was great.
    I love Ladd, but I have to nominate “Duel” and “The Black Knight”, along with the Cornel Wilde directed and starred “Sword of Lancelot” for the three worst movies I've seen. They make “Plan 9” look GREAT in comparison and they make “Footsteps” look like one of the greatest films ever made.
    That being said, I'm a fan of cheesy movies. Generally the cheesier, the better. :-) And if it has EF in it, well, that's simply a redeeming factor that makes me refuse to classify the movie as an outright stinker.

  7. Anonymous

    July 11, 2007 at 11:57 pm

    That's a GREAT two cents – make it a thousand dollars worth of commentary. I appreciate your thoughts.
    You mentioned ROCKY MOUNTAIN and that's another of my favorites. I also share your thinking that it's intriguing to see Flynn at that time in his life.

  8. Anonymous

    July 12, 2007 at 5:34 am

    Becky, take a look at the Main Page of the blog! Your Welcome note is there for all to see, and to celebrate! I am very pleased to have you with us!

  9. Anonymous

    July 12, 2007 at 2:29 pm

    My apologies for using romp 2 times in the same sentence!