Movie Review: The Sea Hawk (1940)

by StevenHelmer

A review of the 1940 pirate movie that pairs Errol Flynn and Claude Rains.

Synopsis: The king of Spain plots to overthrow Queen Elizabeth of England in the 16th century but a lone English privateer by the name of Geoffrey Thorpe presents an obstacle both by attacking Spanish ships and robbing them of their gold and, when he discovers the king's plans, by trying to return to England to warn his queen.


Errol Flynn (photo courtesy of Pixabay)

I don't watch pirate movies very often. But, my daughter and I wanted to watch a movie together last night and I decided a film from this genre would be a nice change of pace from our typical Friday night horror film.

I ended up picking "The Sea Hawk" because my daughter is familiar with Claude Rains from "The Invisible Man" and some other films we've watched together. And, for the most part, it ended up being better than I expected.

I'm actually not much of an Errol Flynn fan. I've seen plenty of his other movies and he always seems to play his characters with an over-the-top arrogance that just doesn't quite work for me. However, he does manage to keep things toned down quite a bit in this film and, as a result of that, I did think he did an excellent job in his role of the hero Thorpe.

The person that really impressed me, however, was Robson, who, in my opinion at least, really stood out as Queen Elizabeth. She managed to be charming yet firm and even a little scary, pretty much everything I would expect to see from the legendary queen. Brenda Marshall might have played Thorpe's love interest Dona Maria. But, Robson was much more memorable.

While there are some exciting sea battles in this movie, including one early on in the film, the movie does tend to drag on at times. This includes what I thought was a pretty dragged out scene with the queen (in an effort to keep up appearances) publicly chastising her privateers. After seeing the sea battle prior to that, it was a little bit of a let down, at least until the film started picking up toward the end.

I also thought some parts of the movie, including the love story between Thorpe and Dona Maria, were kind of predictable. It wasn't anything that made me dislike the movie in general. But, it would have been nice to see at least an effort to be a little more unique

TCM Greatest Classic Film Collection: Legends - Errol Flynn (The Adventures of Robin Hood / Capta...

THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD (1938) - Winner of 3 Academy Awards* - Dashing Errol Flynn triumphs in this lavish version of the Robin Hood saga. Olivia de Havilland (as Maid Mari...

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Final Opinion

I'm still not about to watch pirate movies exclusively. However, this film turned out to be worth watching, both because of some exciting sea battles and because of surprisingly decent acting from Flynn and his supporting cast. This is a movie I would recommend taking the time to watch as a result of that.

My Grade: B

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Updated: 12/14/2016, StevenHelmer
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DerdriuMarriner on 04/01/2022

StevenHelmer, Thank you for practical information, pretty pictures and product lines.
The library system here does not have The Sea Hawk listed as a film among its Blu-ray and DVD collections. And yet the online catalogue has it as an electronic book. That's a bit disappointing because I like the multisensory experience of audiobook, book and film.

Were the drawn-out conversations necessary or would their replacement by other topics have boosted this film into the A rating?

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