Home > Reviews > CAPTAIN BLOOD – Erich Wolfgang Korngold

CAPTAIN BLOOD – Erich Wolfgang Korngold

MOVIE MUSIC UK CLASSICS

Original Review by Craig Lysy

The commercial success of Treasure Island and The Count of Monte Cristo in 1934 inspired Warner Brothers Studio executives to remake their earlier silent film of Captain Blood, which first hit the silver screen in 1923. They tasked producers Harry Joe Brown and Gordon Hollingshead to manage the project with a generous $1.24 million budget and hired Michael Curtiz to direct. They would again adapt the film from the 1922 novel Captain Blood by Rafael Sabatini and hired Casey Robinson to write the screenplay. However, casting got off on the wrong foot; Robert Donat and Jean Muir were originally sought for the lead roles, but when Donat declined the offer, the studio decided to bypass Muir and recruit new young talent. 24-year-old Australian actor Errol Flynn would make his Hollywood debut, cast in the titular role supported by 19-year-old Olivia de Havilland, who would play Arabella Bishop. Joining them would be Lionel Atwill as Colonel Bishop, Basil Rathbone as Levasseur, Ross Alexander as Jeremy Pitt, and Henry Stephensen as Lord Willoughby.

The story takes place in England during the reign of King James II, circa 1688. Peter Blood is a physician who is arrested for ministering to the wounds of Lord Gilroy, who had participated in the Monmouth Rebellion to overthrow King James II. He is convicted of treason and sentenced to slavery in the West Indies. In Port Royal Jamaica he is purchased by Arabella Bishop, daughter of the port’s military commander Colonel Bishop. They are attracted to each other, but Blood has no intention to remain her slave. He manages to escape, seizes a Spanish galleon, and begins a new career of piracy as a buccaneer. Three years later Blood’s partner, the French pirate Lavasseur, captures a British ship carrying Arabella and royal emissary Lord Willoughby. When Lavasseur refuses to sell them to Blood, he is killed in a duel. Although resistant, Arabella falls in love with Peter who at the behest of the new King William III is granted a pardon and given a commission in the Royal Navy by Lord Willoughby. Blood ultimately gains fame defeating a French attack on Port Royale, is made Governor, and wins the hand of Arabella in marriage. The film was a huge commercial success earning $2.5 million – twice its production cost of $1.24 million. It launched the swashbuckling genre as well as the careers of Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland, who would costar together in nine more films during their careers. The film secured five Academy Award nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Sound Recording and Best Film Score.

The studio wanted a rousing score to support their film, and offered Austrian composer Erich Wolfgang Korngold the scoring assignment. The assignment would prove challenging as he was simultaneously scoring the film Give Us The Night. Nevertheless, in a span of three weeks, which consisted of night sessions following his day work with Give Us The Night, he composed a magnificent score that would launch his Hollywood career. Korngold understood that the film’s narrative involved adventure, romance, battles and that his score would need to speak to each of these elements. To that end he composed a multiplicity of fine themes as well as interpolating music from two Franz Liszt Tone Poems – Prometheus (1850) and Mazeppa (1854). Korngold’s orchestrator Hugo Friedhofer relates;

“I don’t know whether Korngold was tired, or what, but anyway, he decided that except for an introduction to [the duel sequence], a play into the actual duel, and a play-off at the end, we adapted something from a symphonic poem of Franz Liszt called “Prometheus.” It had a fugue. And fugues make an excellent background for duels, because that’s the conflict—one voice against the other. I think I still have a miniature score of the Liszt piece, with the markings in it that we discussed the night I went over to his house, at about eight o’clock in the evening, and left around midnight and went home and orchestrated. The copyist picked it up in the morning, and that afternoon it was recorded.”

For his soundscape Korngold composed twelve themes. For his two primary themes, Peter’s Theme has a classic ABA form, with the A Phrase born by proud horns bravura supporting his heroic actions as a fighter, while the B Phrase is emoted warmly by lyrical strings, which reveal his more intimate and sensitive side. Later in the film a new thematic identity arises for Peter, the Pirate Theme, which is kindred to the A Phrase of Peter’s Theme in that it is horn declared, but it has a more martial sensibility to it, and emotes with more aggression. The Pirate Theme gains ascendancy when he resolves to become a pirate. From this point in the film it supplants his signature theme until his acceptance of a Captaincy in the Royal Navy, where once again Peter’s Theme gains prominence. Arabella’s Theme serves not only as her personal identity, but also as a Love Theme. It provides the score’s only feminine theme and is emoted exquisitely by sumptuous strings romantico full of yearning and ardor.

As for the secondary themes, King James’ Theme offers a sinister, repeating four-note descending construct by dire woodwinds harp glissandi and martial snare drums, which speak to his malevolence. Juxtaposed is King William’s Theme, which is simple in construct and emotes reverentially as classic royal fanfare by horns solenni. The bumbling Governor’s Theme supports his identity and is unexpectedly not British nor formal in its articulation, on the contrary it is emoted in a playful, unpretentious manner by xylophone animato, tambourine, bubbling woodwinds with exotic percussive accents. For our villain, Colonel’s Bishop’s Theme offers an oppressive construct abounding with malice. It emotes as a stepped ascending triplet of violence, relentless in its cadence, unstoppable in its cruelty. The Sisyphean Toiling Motif is grim, discordant and supports the men being whipped like animals as they toil pushing gears that power a massive water wheel in endless circles. This cyclic motif is relentless and oppressive as we see the men struggle. The Sailing Theme supports scenes where we see ships sailing on the open seas. Korngold provides a long lined nautical construct born by languorous strings where we feel the ebb and fall of ocean waves. The final three themes all support settings; The Port Royale Theme supports the West Indies port and offers a marvelous exotic construct enriched by Caribbean auras. It emotes with dance like rhythms carried by woodwinds animato, drums, and horns, adorned with exotic percussive accents, which create a perfect ambiance for this bustling seaport. The Tortuga Theme is also linked to an island setting and is in reality a series of exotic Spanish dances, which Korngold uses the cimbalom, and other ethnic accents to support the festive nature of the drinking establishment. Lastly, we have the Virgen Magra Theme that bathes us with exotic languorous auras, which perfectly establishes the ambiance of this remote tropical island.

This review offers a departure from my usual method of assessing the music from the album to the actual film scene. Tragically there is no bona fide release of the complete film score, only the excellent partial film score restoration by the brilliant John Morgan, which is found on the Naxos Film Music Classics album “Captain Blood”, conducted by Richard Kaufman and the Brandenburg Philharmonic Orchestra. As this score was Korngold’s gateway score, which launched his career, it is in my judgement magnificent and demands a review. I therefore review not album cues, as there are none, but instead each film scene. This satisfies my quality standards of linking music to film context, thus allowing me to achieve my objective, albeit by a different route.

Film Scene – “Main Title” offer’s a wonderful score highlight where Korngold introduces us to his primary themes. It supports the dramatic display of the Warner Brothers Studio logo and the roll of the opening credits. Bold declarations by horns eroico of the Captain Blood Anthem resounds and fills us with excitement and the call to adventure! At 0:27 we segue atop strings tenero into the more intimate and lyrical B Phrase of Peter’s Theme. We return at 0:56 atop fanfare to a now playful rendering of Peter’s Theme by woodwinds animato. We conclude at 1:32 atop Peter’s Fanfare as “England 1685” displays on screen with a poster which declares “Down With the Usurper!”, which is supported by horns reale declaring King James’s fanfare. Film Scene – “Desperate Rider” reveals a horseman riding furiously amidst a battle carried by fast paced galloping music to the house of Dr. Peter Blood. He knocks desperately and rouses Peter who is carried to the door by his theme. The courier begs him to come and attend to the wounds of his friend Lord Gilroy. In the Film Scene – “The Kings Men” we see Peter ministering to the wounds of his friend Lord Gilroy supported by the warm B Pharse of his theme. As the King’s men arrive a grim martial drum propelled cadence propels their dark purpose.

Film Scene – “The Arrest of Peter Blood” reveals Peter being arrested for unwisely tweaking the pride of the Captain. The orchestra’s lowest register growls as Peter is arrested. In a scene change to the King’s castle, dire horns resound empowered by drums brutale as script recounts the countless deaths of captured rebels. As we see a group of bound men walking past the gallows to trial we conclude ominously with elegiac trumpets portending their doom. Film Scene – “The Trial” reveals a corrupt Chief Justice convicting Peter and dozens of men to death in a gross miscarriage of Justice. The scene is unscored. Film Scene – “King James” reveals the King accepting counsel, which advises him to profit off of the condemned men by sending them to the plantations in the West Indies where they will be sold off slaves. Sinister woodwinds adorned with harp glissandi and martial snare drums emote King James’ Theme as he spares the men’s life for his own profit. Film Scene – “Journey to the West Indies” reveals a ship sailing to the West Indies with script portending the men’s fate as slaves. Korngold introduces his languorous Sailing Theme to support their progress. The transfer of the languorous melodic line from violins to horns and then back to kindred strings is calming and offers a striking juxtaposition to the dire fate of the men chained below in the ship’s hold. As we shift below deck, we see Peter ministering to the suffering men supported by an aggrieved rendering of the B Phrase of his theme. We conclude with the Sailing Theme on French horns as we see the ship making landfall at Port Royale, which Korngold accents with exotic Caribbean auras.

Film Scene – “Port Royale” offers a delightful score highlight, which showcases Korngold’s Governor’s Theme. We see the convicted men disembarking and being herded to the slave market. The exotic rhythms, auras and accents of the colorful Port Royale Theme supports the scene in this bustling seaport. At 15:44 the playful Governor’s Theme enters on xylophone animato, tambourine, bubbling woodwinds with exotic percussive accents to support his arrival at the market and later greeting of Colonel Bishop and his daughter, Arabella. We close with strings romantico as Arabella takes a liking to Peter who defies her father’s demand to open his mouth. Film Scene – “Arabella Purchases Blood” reveals Arabella purchasing Peter for £10. He is ungrateful and she dismissive, yet a short phrase of the Love Theme is heard, informing us of a nascent attraction. Film Scene – “The Toil of the Water Wheel”. At 20:46 Korngold introduces a grim and discordant Toiling Motif as we see Peter and the men being whipped like animals as they toil pushing gears in endless circles that power a massive water wheel. The cyclic motif is relentless and oppressive as we see the men struggle. At 21:21 we begin a stepped ascent of agony, a crescendo of pain as we move towards a whipping post where we see a man being whipped mercilessly. As Colonel Bishop orders the prisoner’s face be branded in the name of the king, a flute of doom emotes King James’ Theme. We build to a horrific climax as the red-hot iron sears the man’s cheek.

Film Scene – “An Outraged Governor” reveals the incompetent treatment of the Governor’s gout by two bumbling doctors, who earn his wrath and are banished from his sight. The animated Governor’s Theme supports the scene. In Film Scene – “Arabella Asks for Blood to be Doctor” Arabella, who is visiting the Governor suggests that her slave is a renowned doctor who could perhaps assist. Her theme emotes with warmth, which informs us of her growing affection for him. Later, and unscored we see that after two months of treatment by Peter the Governor has been cured of his gout and he rewards Peter by making him his personal physician. Film Scene – “Peter and Arabella” reveals a chance meeting between Peter and Arabella. It is she who is responsible for Peter’s rise in standing, and she is fishing for his admission of gratitude. Yet he is again ungracious as he complains of his status as a slave and the mistreatment of his men under the tyranny of King James. This again offends her and she departs with obvious displeasure. The Love Theme underpins the scene, yet it never quite coalesces for a full statement, reflecting both their attraction to each other, but also their discord. As she enters her mansion, we see regret in his eyes that he was so ungracious. In Film Scene – “Peter Plans To Escape” he visits the two bumbling physicians and makes them a offer they cannot refuse – they fund his escape from the island and in return they regain all the business lost to his practice. The scene is unscored. Later that night Peter shares his plan to escape with his men. Korngold supports the scene textures of unease and tension.

Film Scene – “Peter and Jeremy” reveals Peter sharing his plans with Jeremy as he tends to his leg wound. Colonel Bishop intrudes, suspects conspiracy and almost catches Peter in a lie, only to be saved by Arabella vouching for him. It is masterful how Korngold stokes a riveting tension with Colonel Bishop’s Theme, an oppressive construct abounding with malice. It strikes fear, emoting as a stepped ascending triplet of violence, relentless in its cadence, and unstoppable in its cruelty. This repeating ascending triplet climaxes dramatically, and then transforms into ever shifting statements full of tension and dread. Film Scene – “Peter and Arabella Rendezvous” offers a beautiful score highlight, which is perfectly executed. A furioso propels Peter on his way as Bishops orders him to go to the Governor at once and treat his gout, which has flared up. Arabella pursues carried by a galloping motif and joins him. This time he warms too her, realizing that she again did him an immense favor. Solo flute delicato carries the Love Theme, which blossoms on sumptuous strings for a beautiful statement. We cut away to the stockade where Bishop is having Jeremy whipped mercilessly, convinced he and Peter are hiding something. The malice of Bishop’s Theme stokes his fury. We return to Peter and Arabella and the Love Theme supports their intimacy. We at last see all pretenses dropped and the theme crests at 42:11 as he embraces and kisses her. She is taken aback, slaps him, and he apologizes for forgetting his station. As he rides off, leaving her in his wake we close on the Love Theme as we see regret in her eyes.

Film Scene – “Peter Rescues Jeremy” reveals Peter returning to the stockade to find Jeremy still bound to the pillory. As he consoles him and ministers to his wounds a tender rendering of the B Phrase of his theme supports the moment. In Film Scene – “Peter is Bound” the moment is shattered by the arrival of Bishop, who is outraged that Peter broke his orders to not give comfort to Jeremy. Once again Peter does not defer but instead antagonizes Bishop who responds by ordering him strapped to the pillory for punishment. A discordant and slithering rendering of Bishop’s Theme swells with malice as he strikes Peter with the first lash, supported brutally with an interpolation Franz Liszt’s “Prometheus”. Yet before he can strike him again horns dramatico resound to support an audacious attack on the port by a Spanish galleon, again supported with an interpolation Franz Liszt’s “Prometheus”. Film Scene – “A Timely Interruption” reveals Bishop distracted and heading out to save his property. As we see the Spanish galleon pummeling the port fort Korngold whips his orchestra into frenzy, providing one of the score’s most dynamic and kinetic action cues supported with an interpolation Franz Liszt’s “Prometheus”. The fury of the “Prometheus” is sustained as the pirates turn their guns on the town, which causes a rising panic. With the fort destroyed, the galleon fires upon the town, which Korngold supports with a driving orchestral torrent. An interlude at 48:36 supports the men leaving their prison hut to free Peter carried by a descent motif. We shift back to the town atop trumpets of war as we see the town being pummeled. Trumpets usher in a bravado victory anthem at 49:13 as the Spanish land and sack the city, unleashing chaos. At 49:35 a low register bass ostinato supports Peter leading the men through the back streets to the port, in hope of escaping.

Film Scene – “Escape to Freedom” At 50:29 blaring trumpets barbaro support an ambush of a drunken cadre of Spaniards. Interplay with the pulsing bass ostinato resumes as the now armed men seek to escape with the boat Peter purchased at the port. Sadly, they arrive to find it a sunk burning hulk and we close with a diminuendo of hopelessness. Film Scene – “Peter Steals a Boat” reveals Peter seeing opportunity to seize the galleon given that almost all the crew have gone ashore. At 51:52 he swims to the adjoining dock and commandeers an abandoned boat carried by an aminated rendering of his theme. A shifting string tremolo carries their stealth boarding of the ship, closing with a furioso as the rush into the Captain’s quarters and overpower the drunken men. Film Scene – “The Spanish Depart” reveals the Spanish Captain declaring to the British governor that the town is his and that he with forego destroying it for 200 pieces of gold. At 54:38 music enters as a marcia ubriaca as the drunken Spanish soldiers march through the town. The march becomes festive as the Spanish officers and their men depart with their bounty to the galleon. A vigorous string ostinato carries their progress. At 55:32 trumpets resound supported powerfully by an interpolation Franz Liszt’s “Prometheus” as Peter orders the crew to open fire on the unsuspecting Spanish. At 55:57 a trumpet propelled aggressive martial fury is unleashed as one by one the Spanish boats are blasted from the water.

Film Scene – “Colonel Bishop Arrives” reveals Colonel Bishop taking a boat to congratulate the men of the galleon. As he arrives, he is surprised to see Peter and the men and that his money has been recovered. He offers to petition the King for a “partial reduction” in their sentences, which elicits derisive anger from the men. Peter talks the men out of hanging him and instead tosses him overboard. As they swing him one – two – and three casting him overboard Korngold syncs with a swaying cadence and a descent motif as Bishop crashes into the sea. We close with trumpets of victory resounding as the men celebrate. Film Scene – “Peter Sets Sail” snare drums and trumpets dramatico unleash a bold rendering of the A Phrase of his theme as the crew pulls anchor and unfurls the sails. As we see the image of Arabella in his mind on screen the softer and more intimate B Phrase of his theme carries his longing heart. Celebratory fanfare carries the ship’s departure to open sea as Peter seeks a new destiny. Film Scene – “Crimson Career” reveals Peter recruiting the men with a pact of brotherhood and piracy as they are now stateless and outlaws. As they raise the pirate flag at 1:05:28 trumpets dramatico resound with the Pirate Theme, his new identity. A montage unfolds of Peter scoring one victory after another, earning the title of “The Terror of the Caribbean”. Korngold supports the montage with an aggressive martial bombast by interpolating music from Franz Liszt’s Mazeppa (1854) with strains of the Pirate Theme, and fleeting references of Peter’s Anthem.

Film Scene – “An Angry King” reveals King James enraged that Peter Blood had become a scourge to British shipping. On advice of his Privy Council he appoints Colonel Bishop the new Governor and tasks him with bringing Blood to justice at all costs. The scene is unscored. Film Scene – “Arabella returns to England” reveals Arabella returning to England to visit relatives. By chance Peter sights her ship supported by a woodwind driven Pirate Theme, which ushers in a sumptuous Love Theme so full of yearning. He wants to attack, but the crew convinces him to relent so they can have a respite from fighting and enjoy shore leave in Tortuga. Film Scene – “Tortuga”. At 1:11:25 the Peter and crew arrive at the pirate friendly port of Tortuga where they meet up with renown buccaneer Captain Levasseur and his crew. The two Captains are on friendly terms, party together and ultimately sign a pact of alliance under Blood’s governing articles. Korngold supports the festive scenes with a series of Spanish dance melodies, which provide the perfect ambiance. Film Scene – “England”. At 1:16:01 we shift to England where we see Arabella saying her goodbyes as she departs to the port for the trip back to Port Royale. Korngold supports with quintessential English gentility provided a perfect confluence of music and setting. Film Scene – “Arabella and Lord Willoughby” reveals Arabella returning to Port Royale with Lord Willoughby, who is on a diplomatic mission for the new King William III. As they banter on deck the music from the previous cue is sustained, although it is more understated as to not intrude into the dialogue.

Film Scene – “The Ship is Sighted”. At 1:17:41 woodwinds animato support the sighting of a ship in the distance. Korngold juxtaposes the gentility of the English ship against the predatory aggression of Lavasseur’s Ship. At first sighting there is no sense of alarm from the British perspective, yet the woodwinds emote aggressively when the camera pans to the French ship. As Lavasseur orders the attack, martial trumpets resound, supported with an interpolation Franz Liszt’s “Mazeppa” while the gentility of music supporting the British ship continues. A single warning shot is fired and we shift scenes to Film Scene – “Island of Virgen Magra”. At 1:19:05 Korngold bathes us with exotic languorous auras of Virgen Magra Theme, which perfectly establishes the ambiance of this remote tropical island. As we move to the island the music dissipates as Lavasseur demands Lord Willoughby return to Port Royale to obtain ransom, while Arabella remains as hostage. Film Scene – “Blood Arrives” reveals him arriving unexpectedly with confidence. When he recognizes Arabella, her theme resonates in Peter’s eyes. As he walks to engage Lavasseur the Pirate Theme carries his progress. In Film Scene – “The Duel” we are offered an outstanding action cue. Peter out smarts Levasseur and takes possession of Arabella after providing Lavasseur’s crew payment in pearls. Well Levasseur will have none of it and challenges Blood to a duel. The duel is classic swashbuckling action with aggressive thrusts and parries. Korngold supports the fierce on-screen action by interpolating Franz Liszt’s epic Tone Poem #5 “Prometheus”. As Lavasseur is cut down and waves wash over his corpse, a tragic minor modal statement of Captain Blood’s Theme sounds.

Film Scene – “Peter and Arabella on the Ship” offers a wonderful score highlight where we are graced by thematic interplay. At 1:27:47 muted trumpets declare the Pirate Theme as we see Peter’s ship sailing in the night skies. The theme is joined by a soft rendering of the B Phrase of Peter’s Theme as he discusses his life with Arabella. Her theme now joins as Peter relates his wish that she join him. The music becomes impassioned as she rejects him for being a pirate who dared to purchase her. We crest on her theme as Peter declares he owns her, will do what he wants with her, and storms out. In Film Scene – “Changing Course” an angry Peter rebuffs a request to meet with Lord Willoughby and storms to the deck where he orders the first mate to change course to Port Royale. The Pirate and Port Royale Theme entwine as he reluctantly follows orders, given that the British Fleet has assembled there. Film Scene – “To Port Royal” as the order is announced, ominous horns declare the Port Royale Theme as we see fear in the faces of the crew. Film Scene – “Arabella’s Remorse”. At 1:32:43 Arabella confides her anger and sadness with Peter to Lord Willoughby over dinner. She is clearly conflicted and her theme supports the moment, yet when Lord Willoughby counsels her as to Peter’s chivalry in returning them to Port Royale in the face of certain death from her father, all is made clear and the Love Theme carries her as she travels to the deck. Film Scene – “The Crew Confront Peter”. The crew is rightfully concerned for their lives and a grim rendering of the Pirate Theme carry them to parley with Peter. He parries a mutiny threat and, in the end, they decide to cast their lot with Peter.

Film Scene – “Return to Port Royal”. At 1:37:27 a bugle declared Pirate Theme resounds as a call for all hands-on deck as they see two French ships attacking an undefended Port Royale. We segue into Film Scene – “Goodbye to Arabella” atop her theme as Peter declares his attention to take her to safety, renouncing her hold on him as her slave. We segue into Film Scene – “Royal Pardon” as Lord Willoughby’s announces to Peter news of a pardon by the new King William III and a commission in the British navy. His announcement is supported reverently by horns solenni stating King William’s Theme. Peter orders the bugler to call the crew to midship for an announcement and the Pirate Theme resounds to support the assembly. As Peter declares King James has been deposed and the good King William now rules, horns solenni declare his theme. As they all declare their loyalty to Peter, he orders the hoisting of the French Flag so as to aid him in deceiving the French of their true identity. Martial fanfare reale support the hoisting of the French Fleur de lis as Peter takes the ship into Port Royale. Film Scene – “Arabella Departs”. At 1:44:24 Jeremy orders Arabella to board the boat per Captain Blood’s orders. She wants to say goodbye, but Jeremy forbids it. As she boards the Love Theme blossoms, yet it is tinged with sadness as we see regret in both their eyes.

Film Scene – “The Battle” offers an astounding action cue – a tour de force where Korngold reveals mastery of his craft. At 1:45:19 a bugler calls the men to arms with declarations of the Pirate Theme. Peter takes the ship into proximity of the lead French ship, hoists the British Union Jack and opens fire. Korngold unleashes orchestral fury by interpolating Liszt’s “Prometheus” joined by the A Phrase of Peter’s Theme, now declared as a heroic battle anthem. We crescendo upon Peter’s Anthem at 1:48:56 as a canon shot penetrates the powder room of the French vessel and she is blown apart. Peter then engages the second French ship, but three French salvos knock out two port canons and blow a hole in the ship below the water line. With his ship sinking, Peter orders the helmsman to take them into the French ship where they will board and fight hand to hand. Liszt’s “Prometheus” continues to propel the action. At 1:52:21 trumpets resound and carry Peter as he boldly leads his men and board the French vessel. As hand to hand combat unfolds a furioso swell empowering the battle. Peter’s Anthem resounds at 1:53:45 as he cuts down the French flag and the tide of battle turns as his crew overwhelms the French sailors. A drum roll at 1:54:28 ushers in a declaration of victory by trumpets as Peter and his crew win the battle as their ship sinks. We climax dramatically with fanfare reale, which ends in a grand flourish as the British Union Jack is hoisted aloft the captured French vessel. The sequence ends ominously on dire horns as we see Governor Bishop’s and his three warships approaching Port Royale.

Film Scene – “Reunion” At 1:55 25 the gentile English Theme carries Arabella’s carriage ride to the port. Yet she orders the carriage stopped when she sees Peter, running to him and demanding that he flee lest her father execute him. When he challenges her if she hates or loves him, she at last relents and declares her love. Korngold celebrates the moment with a lush and embellished rendering of the Love Theme, joined with a heartfelt rendering of the B Phrase of his theme. We end in a flourish as they race to the Governor’s desk and await his return. Film Scene – “Bishop’s Return” reveals Lord Willoughby informing him that he has been relieved of his post for dereliction of duty – abandoning his capital in a time of war to search for a pirate. He orders him to report to the new Governor for sentencing. Film Scene – “Finale”. We conclude with Bishop arriving to witness Arabella walk to Peter and sit on his lap, as he says welcome uncle. The Love Theme carries the reunion and we conclude grandly on a final triumphant statement of Peter’s Anthem.

I am in the unenviable position of not being able to thank anyone as remarkably, no one has yet to produce a film score album! This is just not acceptable. The audio quality of the film I watched was sadly archival and did not do justice to Korngold’s creation. Captain Blood was not only a seminal score in the history of film score art, but also a gateway score, which launched Korngold’s remarkable career. Worth noting is that this film, in large part because of Korngold’s score, launched the swashbuckling genre in Hollywood. This score drove home the point to studio executives how rousing and inspiring orchestral music could enhance and elevate their films. Warner Brothers contracted Korngold immediately after the film and the other studios all created music departments and hired directors to manage them. So, we must conclude that Korngold’s effort with “Captain Blood” was a transformative event in the history of film score art, a catalyst, which ushered in for all practical purposes the grand orchestral scores that exemplified the Golden Age. Regarding the actual scoring of the film, as became his customary practice, Korngold created a multiplicity of exceptional themes for both characters and settings, often joining them in inspired interplay. He also interpolated works of classical composers, which were seamlessly integrated into the tapestry of his score, and in my judgement, completely congruent and indistinguishable from his own compositions. I believe this score to be one of the finest in Korngold’s canon and a gem of the Golden Age. If the various label creative teams are listening, my counsel is that someone needs to restore and re-record this film score. Until that day, I highly recommend as a stop gap, the Naxos Film Music Classics Compilation Album “Captain Blood and Other Swashbucklers”, which includes six cues and nearly twenty minutes of music brilliantly restored by John Morgan, along with additional music from Miklós Rózsa’s The King’s Thief, Victor Young’s Scaramouche, and Max Steiner’s The Three Musketeers.

For those of you unfamiliar with the score, I have embedded a YouTube link to the rousing Overture conducted by Charles Gerhardt and the National Philharmonic Orchestra: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EnERZmvEeRs

Buy the Captain Blood soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • Main Title (2:49)
  • Slaves/Arabella and Blood (6:57)
  • Tortuga (1:46)
  • Port Royal, Island of Magra, English and Pirates Ship (5:06)
  • Pirates Flag (1:40)
  • Finale (1:32)

Running Time: 19 minutes 50 seconds

Naxos 8-557704 (1935/2006)

Music composed by Erich Wolfgang Korngold. Conducted by Richard Kaufman. Performed by The Brandenburg Philharmonic Orchestra. Original orchestrations by Hugo Friedhofer, Ray Heindorf, Milan Roder and Heinz Roemheld. Recorded and mixed by Gert Puhlmann. Score produced by Erich Wolfgang Korngold and Leo F. Forbstein. Album produced by Klaus Bischke.

  1. March 30, 2020 at 10:07 am

    Wow, what an amazing detailed report of this fantastic music, highly informative and it must have taken a long time to compile. Thank you so much for reminding us of this masterpiece.

  2. FilmFan94
    March 30, 2020 at 10:32 am

    Very interesting method of reviewing for a fine score, and well done too I might add. Makes curious about how you’ll handle things if you ever decide to review Alfred Newman’s The Prisoner of Zenda, as there’s no album of that score using Newman’s original ‘37 arrangements though there is an excellent album of Conrad Salinger’s arrangements for the Stewart Granger remake.

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