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The Dawn Patrol (1938)

The Errol Flynn Signature Collection, Vol. 2

With the announcement that Escape From New York will be remade, online movie-fan communities went into something of an uproar. But imagine if the world had the Internet in the 1930s. Would there be the same sort of uproar when John Huston tried (for the third time, mind you) to adapt Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon? Would there be the contrarians who would suggest that the earlier versions were better? Probably. So how would they react to Edmund Goulding's 1938 The Dawn Patrol? Goulding was not only remaking a Howard Hawks film, but he was using much of the same flying footage from a movie made eight years previous. Then again, in its time there wasn't television or revival houses, and by now the Hawks film has been relegated to the ether (the only way to catch it is on television, since it isn't on DVD at this writing). It's a very Hawksian picture: Like Only Angels Have Wings, it's about men dealing with the fact that their every act puts them in the face of death. Errol Flynn stars as WW I fighter pilot Capt. Courtney, a high flyer who risks death with every flight and begrudges his superior Maj. Brand (Basil Rathbone) for sending young, inexperienced pilots out to die. Courtney's best friend is Lt. Scott (David Niven), who also loves to drink and is an excellent pilot. Roles change when Scott and Courtney take revenge on feared German pilot "Red Baron" Von Richthofen, a stunt the boys pulled without permission, and which gets Brand promoted. In the interim he puts Courtney in charge, so he learns the sting of sending young boys out to die, because, well, he has to. But the stakes are that much higher when Scott's brother Donnie (Morton Lowry) joins their ranks. Though the original movie expressed the Hawksian ethos through and through, 1938's Dawn Patrol is a star vehicle for Errol Flynn, and as such, he makes the most of it. This is an adventure film masquerading as a war film, and it's fun for Flynn's brio. Director Goulding is best remembered as a studio worker, but he was one of the better ones, and here he delivers a solid effort that manages to outdo the original. Warner presents the film in full-frame (1.33:1) and the original monaural audio (DD 1.0). The transfer is excellent, with solid blacks and just a few scratches. The movie can be watched normally or in Warner's "Night at the movies" option, which puts the special features into a "play all" function that includes a bonus trailer, a newsreel, two short films ("The Prisoner of Swing" and Romance Road"), and the cartoon "What Price Porky." Theatrical trailer, keep-case or slimcase in "The Errol Flynn Collection, Vol. 2."

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