Wednesday, July 18, 2018

The Prisoner of Zenda (1952)

The Prisoner of Zenda (1952): adapted by Edward Rose, Wells Root, Noel Langley, and John Balderston from the novel by Anthony Hope; directed by Richard Thorpe; starring Stewart Granger (Rudolf Rassendyll/ King Rudolf V), Deborah Kerr (Princess Flavia), Louis Calhern (Col. Zapt), Jane Greer (Antoinette de Mauban), Lewis Stone (The Cardinal), Robert Douglas (Michael), and James Mason (Rupert):

Stewart Granger had quite a run of box-office hits in the early 1950's, most notably King Solomon's Mines, Scaramouche, and this film. He's an amiable presence, though once one realizes how much like Bruce Campbell he looks, things can get a bit distracted.

Here he's both the crown prince of fictional European country Ruritania and that crown prince's identical cousin. Yep, identical cousin. When rivals of the prince kidnap him on the eve of his coronation, the cousin must imitate the prince until the prince is found and rescued. OK!

Things remain light throughout, and the film clocks in at a totally reasonable 96 minutes. It's a bit slow to begin with, as pretty much all the sword-fighting and derring-do occurs in the last half-hour. Granger had quite a year for lengthy cinematic sword fights -- the superior Scaramouche was also released in 1952. 

The Prisoner of Zenda is a genial, Technicolour-bright costume drama with winning performances from Granger, Louis Calhern, and a particularly oily James Mason as the mastermind behind the kidnapping and attempted coup d'etat.  Deborah Keer sparkles as the love interest, Princess Flavia. Recommended.

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