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While THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE ($20) is decidedly one of Errol Flynnís lesser swashbuckling efforts, his fans will find the film to be fun nonetheless. Based upon the novel by Robert Louis Stevenson, THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE tells of Scotsman Jamie Durrisdeer (Flynn), who goes off to fight in the rebellion to place Bonnie Prince Charlie on the thrown, while his younger brother Henry (Anthony Steel) remains at home and loyal to the reigning King. When the rebellion is lost, Jamie finds himself a hunted fugitive, only returning home long enough to gather the funds he needs to be smuggled out of the country.

Unfortunately, Jamie finds himself betrayed by someone close to him, and only manages to survives a run in with British soldiers, thanks to the help of his fellow rebel- Col. Francis Burke (Roger Livesey, who steals scenes like mad). Believing that his brother turned him over to British authorities, Jamie swears revenge- but first, he has to survive being shanghaied to the Caribbean by a band of pirates. Running a scant ninety minutes, THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE moves quickly because it has to compress a lot of story into a brief running time. This is probably the filmís biggest weakness, since it doesnít allow any of the characters to be fully fleshed out, and only Roger Livesey makes any form of lasting impression with his performance. The cast of THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE also includes Beatrice Campbell, Yvonne Furneaux, Felix Aylmer, Mervyn Johns, Charles Goldner, Ralph Truman, Francis De Wolff and Jacques Berthier.

Warner Home Video has made THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE available on DVD in a very nice looking transfer that frames the film in its proper 1.37:1 full screen aspect ratio. Photographed by legendary Technicolor cinematographer Jack Cardiff, THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE is a rather beautiful looking movie. The transfer offers up a close approximation of the rich hues one would find in an original IB Technicolor print. There are some mild inconsistencies in color reproduction throughout the course of film, but for the most part the presentation is quite pleasing. In general, the image is pretty sharp and nicely defined, with only occasional softness in the intentionally filtered fogged shots. Blacks appear accurate, the whites are crisp and contrast is more than respectable. The film element used for the transfer is in good shape, with only minor blemishes serving as a reminder that this movie is half a century old. Digital compression artifacts are usually well concealed.

THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE comes with a perfectly fine Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack. There arenít much by way of background hiss or other audio anomalies, indicating that the soundtrack has been spruced up a bit in the mastering process. Fidelity is adequate for a film of this vintage, with the music and effects sounding somewhat on the hollow side. Dialogue is crisp and always completely understandable. A French language track is also encoded onto the DVD, as are English, French and Spanish subtitles. Music underscores the basic interactive menus, which provide access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a few extras. A theatrical trailer for THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE is included, as are bonus trailers for THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD, CAPTAIN BLOOD, and THE SEA HAWK. A photo gallery and cast listing close out the extras.

THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE may not be the finest Errol Flynn swashbuckler, but it is still a fun outing for fans. Warner has done a very nice job with the DVD, which should keep them quite happy. Personally, I am looking forward to Warner releasing all of the Flynn movies in the library on DVD, especially THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD and THE ADVENTURES OF DON JUAN, which is amongst the most gorgeous Technicolor movies Iíve ever seen.



The Master of Ballantrae (1953)


DVD reviews are Copyright © 2003 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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