• Andy Ross

The Frisco Don Juan


Warner Archive brings a pair of films to blu-ray this month for the first time. One film features Errol Flynn in one of his final swashbuckling roles, the other features a team-up that I had no clue existed till the movie showed up on my doorstep. From 1948 director Vincent Sherman gives us “Adventures of Don Juan,” then from 1979, Robert Aldrich gives us Gene Wilder and a hot off of “Star Wars” Harrison Ford in “The Frisco Kid.”


Erroll Flynn will always be immortalized to movie lovers for playing the title role in 1938’s “The Adventures of Robin Hood,” he’s the defining icon of screen swashbucklers and one could easily make the argument he was the first real “action star” of the movies. But by the late ‘40s Flynn career was a bit hit or miss at the box office. It didn’t help that Flynn was also a bad alcoholic by this point in time.


Warner Brothers decided to run Flynn to his roots by planning a new swashbuckler for him, “Adventures of Don Juan.” In some ways it plays a bit like a soft follow up to “Robin Hood,” shot in lavish Technicolor the film features Flynn as the infamous romancer. Starring alongside Flynn is Alan Hale and Viveca Linfords.


The movie is a great deal of fun, the perfect kind of Saturday matinee film. Flynn is great in the role and the costumes are superb—the film would win an Oscar for costume design. At under two hours, “Adventures of Don Juan” is a good time for all involved. The new blu-ray from Warner Archive features a dazzling new scan from original sources. On a modern display that Technicolor is absolutely stunning and rivals even the latest and greatest from Hollywood in terms of eye candy.


Special features are ported from from the prior DVD release, and that’s a welcomed thing as they’re all rock solid. First off is a very good commentary with the director, Vincent Sherman, and the always great historian Rudy Behlmer. This is followed by a really fun presentation option that Warner featured on a handful of their classic film DVD releases, “Warner Night at the Movies 1948.”


The “Warner Night at the Movies” features gives you the chance to experience an at-home recreation of what going to see this movie in the theater would have been like. Selecting this shows you before the movie a newsreel, two short subjects, and a cartoon. Exactly what movie going audiences of the era were used to when they went to the movies.


The “1948” tag at the end means they’ve matched all the shorts to the year the film was released, meaning there is a very good chance what you’re seeing is exactly what was shown with “Adventures of Don Juan.” All of this makes for a great blu-ray package that comes highly recommended.

Director Robert Aldrich had a very varied career, but perhaps today might be best know to audiences for helming the only pairing of Hollywood titans Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?” In the late ‘70s, Aldrich paired up another set of iconic stars in “The Frisco Kid,” sticking Gene Wilder and Harrison Ford together in an unlikely buddy comedy that turns into a real charming little gem of a film.


I had no clue that Wilder and Ford ever appeared together in a film. To the frank, I was quite surprised when this one showed in in a press email from Warner Archive. I knew I had to see the film as who doesn’t love Gene Wilder? Wilder plays a rabbi from Poland coming to America in 1850. Wilder is on his way to a new appointment in San Francisco when he meets and soon parents up with a bank robber, Ford, as he tires to make his way across a totally new world to him.


The film was marketed as another “Blazing Saddles” type comedy, and it is a funny movie but it’s a bit of a misnomer to put in the same league as a Mel Brooks film. The film does suffer from being a little too long, but by the end I found myself charmed by this movie with a very sweet message at its center. Ford and Wilder make for a good team and it’s a shame they never worked together again.


Warner Archive’s blu-ray of “The Frisco Kid” looks very good with cinematography typical of a film from the late 1970s. The film is clear, sharp, with an accurate amount of grain. The only special feature is a trailer for the movie. But all in all, this is a welcomed release that’s wroth a look.


I alway champion when more movies come out on blu-ray, and Warner Archive truly leads that charge dipping into their vaults every month. Both of these titles are worth your time and I hope you’ll check them out. See you next week.