Friday, July 14, 2017

Scaramouche (1952)

Scaramouche (1952): adapted by Ronald Millar, George Froeschel, Talbot Jennings, and Carey Wilson from the Rafael Sabatini novel; directed by George Sidney; starring Stewart Granger (Andre Moreau), Eleanor Parker (Lenore), Janet Leigh (Aline), Mel Ferrer (Marquis de Maynes), and Richard Anderson (Philippe): My favourite swashbuckler of the Technicolour era features several dazzling sword fights that influenced the lightsabre battles in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi in much the same way that the aerial assault in The Dambusters influenced the Death Star assault in Star Wars.

And boy, they're great duels, especially the lengthy final battle between our hero Andre Moreau and his nemesis the Marquis de Maynes. Stewart Granger is a witty, surprisingly light piece of beefcake as Moreau, who ends up hiding out in a commedia dell'arte troupe in pre-Revolutionary France as the titular character. Eleanor Parker, lovely and funny, is his actress love interest while Janet Leigh is his noblewoman crush. As Moreau's best friend, Oscar Goldman from The Six Million Dollar Man, has been murdered in a one-sided duel by the evil Establishment swordsman Marquis, Moreau must seek instruction in fencing while avoiding the government's search for him.

It's all frothy and colourful as Hell, with the sword-fight choreography allowed to play out in surprisingly long takes that often actually involve the actual actors. No quick-cutting, modern action movie gibberish for this film! Both Granger and Oscar Goldman seem to be about ten years too old for their parts, but then that was often the case in the 1940's and 1950's. In all, Scaramouche is genuinely rousing and fun. Highly recommended.

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