Fire Over England (1937)

Fire Over England (1937), directed by William K. Howard.

This has a lot in common with The Sea Hawk (1940) made in the US a few years later. The English picture is more modest in scale and has less swashbuckling, but both deal with the Armada and the threat of Inquisition-haunted Spain; in both stories traitors at court have to be discovered and rooted out.

Flora Robson plays the same Queen Elizabeth I in both films: homely but fond of virile young privateers, large-hearted but decisive in command and prone to stirring patriotic speeches.

It has to be said: Laurence Olivier was no doubt the better stage actor, but at this time Errol Flynn had movie star charisma that Olivier could not match; his eye-rolling and exaggerated emotions seem silly by comparison. The American film is much more fun.

Spot the young James Mason.

Superior photography by James Wong Howe.

Available on Blu-ray in the "Vivien Leigh Anniversary Collection" from Cohen Media, four films from before Gone With the Wind (1939).

The whites may be somewhat too hot on this edition, but the detail is rather good.

The other titles in the set are: