The Sea Hawk is the only picture to give The Adventures of Robin Hood a run for its money in the greatest adventure film of all time stakes. Sharing only the title with Warners enjoyable silent film and reusing the sets and costumes from The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex, it's a great example of the genius of the studio system in the days before packaging became a dirty word. Errol Flynn is at his very best here, whether he's capturing Spanish galleons in the English Channel, wooing Brenda Marshall or fighting off a quartet of palace guards to warn Queen Elizabeth of the impending Armada - he's the kind of guy every man wants to be and every woman just wants. And he's backed up by a strong array of talent - villainous Claude Rains and eternally snide and condescending Henry Daniell, sidekick Alan Hale, Flora Robson's haughty but playful Elizabeth, reliably decent Donald Crisp and a slew of other familiar faces all the way down to J.M. Kerrigan's shifty spy. Even the eternally irritating Una O'Connor is on her best behavior here.
And there's real talent behind the cameras too - Howard Koch and Seton I. Miller's unashamedly stirring screenplay, Sol Polito's great black and white photography, where every swordfight casts giant shadows, Anton Grot's far from grotty art direction, Michael Curtiz's vivid direction and, of course, Erich Wolfgang Korngold's greatest score (not to mention that song!). Warner's recent DVD release is a fine package, boasting the fully restored version (the obvious anti-Nazi parallels were removed for post-war reissues, reducing Donald Crisp's role to a mere extra) and the sepia tint to the Panama sequences.
Extras are good, although it is a shame that the terrific - and very different - silent version was not included as well.