Film Review: Scaramouche (1952)

Release Date: June 27th, 1952 (USA)
Directed by: George Sidney
Written by: Ronald Millar, George Froeschel
Based on: Scaramouche by Rafael Sabatini
Music by: Victor Young
Cast: Stewart Granger, Eleanor Parker, Janet Leigh, Mel Ferrer

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 115 Minutes

scaramoucheReview:

Scaramouche was a pretty well-renowned film in its day. However, it isn’t one that you hear a lot about anymore. When looking back on those old swashbuckling movies, people tend to remember those that starred Errol Flynn and Tyrone Power: two giant names in film history. Many don’t seem to remember Stewart Granger in his role as Andre Moreau, a sword-wielding French revolutionary that disguises himself as the clownish Scaramouche.

The film is based on Rafael Sabatini’s book of the same name. It was one of many Sabatini works that was adapted for film. Actually, it is the second Scaramouche picture, as there was a silent version released in 1923.

This is one of the top swashbuckling films of all-time. It is kind of cool that it flies under the radar, waiting to be discovered by those who are curious about the genre.

The film is beautiful, from the French countryside to the opulent interiors. The wardrobe is magnificent and the attention to detail was astounding. The final duel at the end, is one of the most visually pleasing sword fights I have ever seen on film. Not to mention that the fight choreography was some of the best, up to the point of this movie’s release.

Granger was great as Moreau and Mel Ferrer was equally enjoyable as the villain, Noel, Marquis de Maynes. The contrast in character between their personality, style and beliefs created a solid dichotomy that made their hatred for one another very believable. They were a great on-screen pair.

Eleanor Parker and Janet Leigh were both good as the female leads of the picture. The rest of the supporting cast also carried their weight.

It is unfortunate that good swashbuckling pictures like this aren’t made anymore. Sure, we have those Disney Pirates of the Caribbean films but they’re more over-the-top fantasy blockbusters that have more in common with modern summer movies than swashbucklers of old.

Scaramouche isn’t just a great movie, it is a reflection of a time when films like it could exist without computer generated bells and whistles. It is a much simpler film than the modern action-adventure outing, yet it is just as exciting.

Rating: 8/10

Film Review: The Black Swan (1942)

Release Date: December 4th, 1942 (USA)
Directed by: Henry King
Written by: Ben Hecht, Seton I. Miller
Based on: The Black Swan by Rafael Sabatini
Music by: Alfred Newman
Cast: Tyrone Power, Maureen O’Hara

20th Century Fox, 85 Minutes

the-black-swanReview:

Not to be confused with that movie where Queen Amidala turns into a lesbian mutant bird ballerina, this is the much superior film to carry the name Black Swan. And sure, Aronofsky’s film was fine and dandy but this is swashbuckling! Swashbuckling always wins!

The Black Swan stars the always magnificent Tyrone Power. Another great swashbuckling actor who died way too soon like Errol Flynn. I guess they didn’t choose the swash life but the swash life chose them.

This film sees Power’s character Jamie Waring leave the life of piracy in an effort to help another former pirate, Captain Morgan, clean up the British waters around the Caribbean. This leads Waring into a situation where he must go head-to-head with the Black Swan and Captain Leech, his once friend.

Maureen O’Hara plays Lady Margaret, who is the daughter of the former governor. Waring takes a liking to Margaret but she is set to marry English gentleman Roger Ingram. Ingram however, is feeding information to the pirates. Waring abducts Margaret to save her from marrying Ingram and because he is smitten with her. This leads to Waring and Margaret finding themselves having to work together to outwit the sinister Captain Leech.

The Black Swan won an Oscar for cinematography. It was also nominated for best special effects and the best musical score. All three of those things were great in this film. The cinematography was beautiful. The attention to detail and set design was perfect while the lighting and atmosphere were awe-inspiring for the time. The final battle between the ships was executed marvelously and holds up today.

The sword fighting scenes were also well-executed and some of the best I’ve seen in classic swashbuckling pictures. The only complaint about it, was that the fighting sequences were sped up and the action felt rushed and a bit unnatural. I think it would’ve played better had it been edited in at normal speed. Then again, speeding it up a bit hides imperfections. Also, this was common practice in Hollywood, at the time.

The Black Swan is a fun movie but that’s the whole point of swashbucklers. Tyrone Power is just as good of a leading man in this genre as Errol Flynn. Also, Tyrone Power certainly likes running around with his shirt off a lot more than Flynn.

Rating: 9/10

Film Review: Captain Blood (1935)

Release Date: December 28th, 1935 (USA)
Directed by: Michael Curtiz
Written by: Casey Robinson
Based on: Captain Blood by Rafael Sabatini
Music by: Erich Wolfgang Korngold
Cast: Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Basil Rathbone, Ross Alexander

Cosmopolitan Productions, Warner Bros. Pictures, 119 Minutes

captain-bloodReview:

Captain Blood is quite possibly the most important swashbuckling film in history. It is what really ignited the genre and turned it into a guaranteed money maker for years to come. It also launched the career of the great Errol Flynn, as it was his first, of many, leading roles. The film opened the door for his co-stars Basil Rathbone, who would have a legendary career, and Olivia de Havilland, who would win an Oscar for To Each His Own.

Directed by the quite accomplished Michael Curtiz, who also directed Casablanca, The Adventures of Robin Hood, Mildred Pierce and a ton of other great films, Captain Blood might be the ultimate epic of his voluminous and impressive catalog.

The movie follows Dr. Peter Blood. It starts as he is arrested unjustly for treason while tending to an injured soldier of a rebellion. The story then follows his trial, his being sold into slavery in Jamaica, his escape and ultimately his metamorphosis into Captain Blood, leader of a band of pirates. A lot happens in the picture and thus, it moves along at a quick pace and fills its two hours nicely.

Flynn does a superb job as the uber cool and incredibly smooth Peter Blood. Basil Rathbone is tremendous as his ally then bitter rival, in what is one of my all-time favorite Rathbone roles. I honestly wish he had more screen time or even a spin-off film. However, spin-offs weren’t too common in 1935. Olivia de Havilland is alluring as the leading lady and even though her motivations aren’t the clearest, you feel as if she is a kind and genuine person despite being involved with slave owners and a corrupt government.

The cinematography, for its time, is beautiful. Often times, lesser-made swashbuckling films come off as too dark and grainy. Captain Blood was well lit and visually, came off as crisp and clean.

If you are into swashbuckling movies but haven’t given this a watch, you really need to. I’d rather be absorbed in this than another Disney Pirates of the Caribbean movie.

Rating: 10/10