Adventure novel by Rafael Sabatini in which Peter Blood, a soldier turned doctor, is unjustly convicted of treason during the Monmouth Rebellion. Blood is shipped to Barbados to work as a slave on the plantation of the evil Colonel Bishop. Blood falls in love with Bishop's daughter Arabella, and vice versa. During a Spanish attack on the town he escapes with some of his fellow prisoners and takes up a life of piracy on the high seas. Flashing blades, evil Spaniards, cunning plans, and thundering cannons ensue. Arr!

In 1935, made into an movie starring Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, and Basil Rathbone. Any film in which Errol Flynn fights Basil Rathbone is great.

Actually, he was shipped to Barbados, where Bishop's plantation was. It is only later, when Bishop is appointed its Governor, that Jamaica enters the scene. There's also no buried treasure involved, strangely enough.

This is one of my all-time favourite books - I love the escapism of the by now completely familiar adventures. I have a tattered copy of it by my bed (one of the only boks I bothered to lug with me when I moved to Ireland).

Funny thing is, it's a Russian translation. I've never read the book in the original - even seeing the name in Latin letters feels weird.

Also a very strange and unique computer game by Philippe Ulrich and Didier Bouchon of Exxos, a French programming team who changed their name to Cryo and went on to do the first 'Dune' computer game. Blood featured a short extract from Jean Michel Jarre's 'Ethnicolor' as the theme tune - something that was quite revolutionary at the time - and is a tricky game to describe. The gameplay involved exploring a universe, flying probes through fractal canyons, and conversing with strange alien creatures using an icon-based ELISA-like language system. Much of it was baffling and revolved around saying 'ME BLOOD FRIEND PLANET' to various cute aliens, only for them to reply 'SMALL IZWAL FEAR SHIP'. Yes.

The game was released in 1988 for the (breathe in) Atari ST, Commodore Amiga, Commodore C64, Sinclair Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, IBM PC and Apple II. The best version is apparently that for the Atari ST (the flying bits are fast and smooth, and the talking bits have a clever spoken language of blobs and beeps).

Its nearest equivalents are space epics such as Damocles and Frontier, although it is considerably more surreal than either. Here is an extract from the novella which accompanied the game:

"The medireport came through on the telox. An incadescent meteor tore through space with a scissors sound. Blood read the report slowly. Cellular degeneration was increasing since the last report. A frightening question came up from his synthetic throat:

"Honk, how long can I live without the vital fluid of the NUMBERS?"

"312 Universal Time Units", replied the bio-consciousness, "Permit me to augment your optimism levels: Your metabolism can't afford despair, and I've isolated a suicide impulse in the B Cortex of a bulb gene in your right brain.""

A sequel, 'Commander Blood', followed in 1994; a 'threequel', 'Big Bug Bang', appeared in 1996, but only in France.

Captain Blood

1935, 119 minutes, Black & White, Adventure. Directed by Michael Curtiz for Warner Bros. Pictures.


Captain Blood is based on the novel by Rafael Sabatini and was adapted for the screen by Casey Robinson. It is the story of Peter Blood, a British doctor, who is wrongfully accused of treason against the British King and sold into slavery in the Caribbean. Through a twist of fate Blood finds himself escaping slavery, commandeering a Spanish ship and becoming a pirate captain.

The film was nominated for two Academy Awards, one for Best Sound Recording for Nathan Levinson (who lost the award to Douglas Shearer for Naughty Marietta) and one for Best Picture (which was another loss, this time to Mutiny on the Bounty). The film also marks Errol Flynn's first starring film role and the first time he was paired with Olivia De Havilland, who was only 19 years old at the time. It is also features the first film score for Erich Wolfgang Korngold who would go on to win Academy Awards for his scores of Anthony Adverse and The Adventures of Robin Hood.

Flynn was not the first choice for the role of Blood. The role was originally intended for Frederic March, but he was instead assigned to the aforementioned Anthony Adverse. Robert Donat and Ronald Colman were also considered for the role, but Flynn's screen-test was apparently the deciding factor for his inclusion in the film.

The film starts a bit slowly, but once the plot starts moving it becomes a very exciting film. It's a good look at why Flynn and De Havilland were often paired. They have a great onscreen chemistry. The film also pits Rathbone and Flynn against each other for the first time. This pairing would also be reprised in The Adventures of Robin Hood. The swashbuckling is good and this is a great place to see the flair that made Flynn a star.

Microsoft Cinemania '95
Steven Bach. The Genius of the System: Hollywood Filmmaking in the Studio Era. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1988.

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