Mara Maru (1952)
While this latter day Errol Flynn film may have languished at the box office in it’s initial release, there’s plenty of fun and adventure looking back from our vantage point.
Once again under the Warner Brothers banner we find Errol as a deep sea diver/adventurer. He’s in the Philippines with a dead beat partner played by Richard Webb who just happens to be married to Flynn’s ex-flame Ruth Roman. Webb is soon to turn up murdered with Flynn the number one suspect for detective Dan Seymour.
Coming to his aide is Paul Picerni as a slippery character who we will soon see is working for Raymond Burr. Burr is onto a sunken treasure that just happens to have gone down with a PT boat that Flynn commanded during WW2. Unknown to Errol there was a briefcase he recalls that had been carrying a million dollars in diamonds. Roman thinks Flynn killed her hubby and she joins in on the treasure hunt. The expedition aboard the Mara Maru soon turns into a voyage of three less than trusting partners.
“You’re mind twists around like a corkscrew doesn’t it?” says our leading lady Roman to the not so surprising villain Raymond Burr. Burr is once again playing a downright nasty character as he did so often in his early years. He’ll stop at nothing to lay claim to the prize that isn’t quite what one should expect once Errol fishes it out of the deep in his old school diving gear.
The boat goes through plenty of sabotage along the trip. Radios go down and the compass gets rigged as our leading players jockey for domination over the others. When the chips are down, sides will have to be taken and decisions made as to the final destination of the diamond studded treasure.
Directing this sea faring adventure was the steady hand of Gordon Douglas. Looking over a list of his credits can be quite surprising. Moving into feature films in the forties, he directed everything from Zombies on Broadway and a Falcon flick before moving into action oriented titles such as Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye and Only the Valiant. He worked steadily into the seventies with stops along the way on a pair of Tony Rome films among others he did with Sinatra, In Like Flint and he even a entered the blaxploitation genre with the Jim Brown film Slaughter’s Big Rip Off.
Ruth Roman worked with many of the leading men from 1948-1954 before moving into television and working steadily up till the late eighties. While I don’t connect her to any specific role she’ll always be attached to Champion and Kirk Douglas for me as I seem to find myself rewatching it every two or three years.
When it comes to Errol Flynn, I’ve made no secret to the fact that when asked to name someone who personified the male movie star during Hollywood’s golden era it’s always Flynn that I refer to. Even in this later effort he’s still worth watching. In reality he’s only slightly over forty years of age. Just hitting his stride by many of today’s standards. The hard living and carefree attitude we associate with him was swiftly closing in. Sadly he’d be gone in seven years. Despite the short life span he gave us film lovers plenty of fun and adventure along the way. Both on screen and dare I say off?