Book vs. Movie: Captain Blood
This series attempts to answer the age-old question: read the book? Or wait for the movie?
The Book: Captain Blood, (1922) by Rafael Sabatini.
The Movie: Captain Blood, (1935)starring Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, and Basil Rathbone and directed by Michael Curtiz.
Plot: Doctor Peter Blood is a retired Irish adventurer who is falsely condemned of traitorous activities during the Monmouth Rebellion in England. Condemned to slavery, he is sent to Port Royal where he is purchased by the cruel Colonel Bishop, and falls in love with the Colonel's lovely, kind, and strong-minded niece, Arabella. When a chance Spanish raid on Port Royal offers Peter a chance to escape, he takes it and goes on to become one of the best known (and most principled) pirates of the Caribbean. His daring exploits and clever campaigns become the stuff of legends, but Peter has left his heart behind in Port Royal. Can the man whose ingenuity is world-renown ever find a way to clear himself and win the heart of the girl he loves?
Unlike Sabatini's other pirate novel, Sea Hawk, the movie follows the plot book very closely. Energetic acting by the charming leads, Curtiz's fast-paced direction and action-packed script doesn't attempt to hide the brutality of war, slavery, and piracy, yet still manages to make Blood a sympathetic character that you root for. In short, it's a great movie.
But time constraints caused some of the book's events to be edited out, including most of great pirate exploits in the book. Also, Arabella Bishop suffers in the movie. Sabatini wrote likable, strong women and Arabella is no exception: she is fair-minded and not afraid to stand up to either Peter or her peers, whether it's tending to sick Spanish soldiers or telling off some of the most powerful men in the room. She is as strong a character as Peter, though secondary. De Havilland's role is reduced to a somewhat petulant, one-note character, who is too proud to admit when she is in the wrong. A shame, really, when the real Arabella was a truly refreshing, smart character.
Conclusion: Toss-Up - Read and Watch
The book is epic and fun, and though it suffers a little in prose (English was not Sabatini's first language and it shows a little here and there), the characters are engaging, the action exciting, and the plot is entertaining. The fact that I've read it three time might just show you how much I like it.
The movie is a classic - big ships, big action scenes, good fencing scenes, grand drama, star-crossed lovers, top-notch directing, a solid soundtrack by Erich Wolfgang Korngold, and it made stars out of then-unknowns Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland.
Both the movie and the book were enormously successful when they debuted and with good reason - solid entertainment like this doesn't come too often.
“A man must sometimes laugh at himself or go mad--Few realize it. That is why there are so many madmen in the world.” - Captain Peter Blood
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