Against All Flags (1952)
“Thundering Guns and Clashing Steel bring you the greatest adventure of them all!”
Against All Flags (1952)
Director: George Sherman
Cast: Errol Flynn, Maureen O’Hara, Anthony Quinn
Synopsis: Brian Hawke of the Royal Navy infiltrates the pirate gangs of Madagascar.
Errol Flynn’s last US swashbuckler is a fairly decent affair that finds him playing opposite flame-haired Maureen O’Hara, who is a sight to behold as a female pirate resplendent in pantomime pirate’s outfits and thigh-high leather boots. Flynn was already a hard-core drunk by 1952. His looks were still pretty much intact, a little rugged maybe, but his face bore few signs of the mottled puffiness that would mark his final years. This is the movie on which Flynn smuggled oranges injected with vodka to get around director George Sherman’s ban on alcohol on the set, and according to O’Hara, the perplexed Sherman would still have to shoot all Flynn’s scenes in the morning because by 4pm his leading man would be incapable of performing.
Flynn (The Charge of the Light Brigade, The Adventures of Robin Hood) plays Brian Hawke, a Naval officer who’s receiving a few lashes when we meet him in order to lend authenticity to the claim that he’s been drummed out of the Navy which he’s about to make to a band of pirates he intends to infiltrate. There’s this kind of brotherhood of pirates who take refuge on an island guarded by flanks of strategically positioned cannons when they’re not plundering the high seas, and it’s Hawkes job to disarm the cannons so that the British Navy’s ships can sail into port. Despite the lash marks on his back, Hawke’s goose looks cooked thanks to the suspicions of the wicked pirate Captain Roc Brasiliano (Anthony Quinn – Warlock, Lawrence of Arabia) until, that is, the feisty lady pirate Spitfire Stevens (O’Hara – How Green Was My Valley, Miracle on 34th Street) takes a shine to him.
Aeneas MacKenzie’s script zips along at a fair old pace, almost managing to paper over the thinness of the plot and Spitfire’s perpetually changing mood swings. At one point, the script seems to have Hawke in two places at once – guarding the coast and talking to Spitfire back at her place – but the overall impression is that this was written for eleven-year-old boys with a taste for adventure, a task at which it succeeds admirably. Perhaps the only fly in the ointment is the inclusion of a haughty Princess (Alice Kelley) who develops a crush on Hawkes. She looks pretty, but possesses all the intelligence of a wet block of wood.
(Reviewed 21st November 2014)