TUMBY BAY - I’ve just watched a terrible film that purports to represent the early adult life in Papua New Guinea of famous Tasmanian actor, Errol Flynn.
Flynn went to PNG at age 18, seeking his fortune as a planter and gold miner. He spent five years on and off in the country before embarking on an acting career.
In 1929, using the proceeds of his Papua New Guinean gold mining, he bought a yacht in Sydney called Sirocco and, after getting her seaworthy, sailed it back to PNG accompanied by three friends.
In his own words Sirocco was “forty feet at the water line, cutter rigged, she was never intended to sail outside the smooth waters of the harbour”. She was over 50 years old when Flynn bought her.
The voyage took seven months and ended in tragedy when Sirocco was wrecked on a reef off Port Moresby and one of the men drowned.
When he was a famous actor and rich, Flynn had another yacht built and called it Sirocco. Clearly he had a great regard for the little cutter.
Flynn was a talented writer and the voyage on the original Sirocco is detailed in his 1937 book ‘Beam Ends’.
It is an entertaining book full of humour and understated adventure and hijinks. Of itself it would make an entertaining film.
The film I watched goes way over the top however. Even though the filmmakers claim it is based on ‘Beam Ends’ it tries to present Flynn as an action hero of the kind you see in the worst Hollywood blockbusters.
They claim that Flynn was the first action hero, presumably based on his role in such films as ‘Robin Hood’ and ‘Captain Blood’. But I think Douglas Fairbanks Snr might dispute that claim.
The film opens with a purely fictitious episode reminiscent of the opening scenes of the first Indiana Jones movie.
Flynn is leading a couple of Hollywood film makers into the Papuan jungle for some unspecified reason and they encounter cannibals intent upon attacking them. There is a race back to the boat and, on the way, Flynn’s loyal and gallant Papuan servant is killed.
There are lots of flying arrows, a dismembered gold prospector’s body, man-eating crocodiles and a bunch of decidedly unMelanesian-looking warriors whooping and shouting in the background.
The film makers are supposed to be the people who later offer Flynn a contract in Hollywood.
This is also pure fiction. Flynn appeared in a flop about the Bounty mutiny made by Australian director Charles Chauvel and then made his way to London and appeared in films there before he ever set foot in Hollywood.
Despite its claim to authenticity, there are lots of other aberrations, misrepresentations and pure bullshit in the film. One of Flynn’s young companions is portrayed as a much older bitter and suicidal individual who dies when Sirocco is wrecked. That never happened.
According to the film Flynn stole Sirocco from a deadly female Chinese drug smuggler who pursues him up the east coast of Australia with a bunch of goons intent upon killing him.
Needless to say there is much violence in the film, with fistfights, gun battles and fast paced chases. Also thrown in is a fictitious ex-girlfriend who ultimately double crosses Flynn.
I was looking forward to the film because I have long admired Flynn’s skill as a writer and was expecting an intelligent interpretation of his first book.
‘Beam Ends’ could have been a fine sardonic and humorous film of some intelligence but instead it has been turned into a ghastly Hollywood-style mishmash.
The whole thing was filmed on Queensland’s Gold Coast, so I guess that should have warned me what to expect.
Now I’m wondering whether the DVD should go into the wheelie bin or whether it’s worth keeping as a classic case of how not to interpret the work of a talented writer.