6. The Black Swan, 1942. Starring Tyrone Power, Maureen O’Hara.
Tyrone Power makes his second appearance on the list in the movie adaptation of Rafael Sabatini’s novel.
This is a pirate adventure movie set around the time of Sir Henry Morgan’s governorship of Jamaica. Power plays one of his pirate captains and supporters in the face of rivalry with other factions and the Spanish.
The climax of this film is the sword fight between Power and the pirate Captain Leech. Power’s class as a swordsman really makes this one shine as they battle above and below decks on Leech’s ship.
7. The Master of Ballantrae, 1953. Starring Errol Flynn, Roger Livesey.
Errol Flynn makes yet another appearance as the hero, ably backed up by Roger Livesey, perhaps better known for his leading role in The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp. This flick is set against the backdrop the Jacobite Rising in Scotland and the Battle of Culloden. It’s based on Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel of the same name.
Flynn’s character is a Jacobite rebel forced to flee Scotland after the rebellion is crushed, leaving behind his lands, titles and paramour. Various adventures follow before he is able to return home and put everything to right.
For me the highlight of this one is the sword fight between Flynn’s character Jamie Durie and the pirate, Captain Arnaud, which occurs a little after mid-way through the film. Another great example of Hollywood swashbuckling and Captain Arnaud is an excellent villain, stylish and colourful in his pirate finery.
8. The Moonraker, 1958. Starring George Baker, Sylvia Sims.
George Baker takes the lead role in this film set after the English Civil War. An interesting bit of trivia (to me anyway!) is that Baker provided the voice over for George Lazenby’s James Bond in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service in the scenes where Bond was disguised as Sir Hilary Bray, as well as playing that character during his appearance in the film.
Baker plays a Scarlet Pimpernel type character who rescues Royalists from Roundhead persecution and facilitates their escape from England to France. Perhaps the film should have been titled The Pimpernel Scarlet. Bad joke. It’ll be the only one. I promise!
This one kind of bucks the Hollywood trend in that there are entertaining sword fights the whole way through; they don’t save it all up for a flashy finale. As an English film, it has a very different feel to it than the Hollywood swashbucklers, but it is well worth a look if you get the chance.
9. The Sea Hawk, 1940. Starring Errol Flynn, Brenda Marshall.
Errol Flynn once again, swashbuckling with aplomb. Although this one takes its name from another Raphael Sabatini novel, it sadly doesn’t take its storyline from it. In saying that, the story that is used is still an entertaining enough romp.
The plot revolves around the Sea Hawks, a group of English privateer captains making war on the Spanish Empire on behalf of Queen Elizabeth I.
Once again the climax at the end is a sword fight between Flynn’s Captain Thorpe and an opponent who shall remain nameless as it would be a bit of a giveaway! All the required elements of a good clash of blades are here, including the old ‘camera focus on the fencers’ shadows’, but my favourite part is where Flynn slices through the candle sticks, quite why I couldn’t say for sure, but it looks pretty cool!
My footnote to this film is that I’d love to have seen Flynn make a movie that was true to the Sabatini novel, it’s a really good one.
Part IV can be found here.