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The Black Shield of Falworth (1954)
Topic Started: Sep 25 2017, 07:25 PM (220 Views)
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The Black Shield of Falworth (1954) Dir. Rudolph Maté
Based on the Novel Men of Iron by Howard Pyle
A Universal-International Picture in Technicolor and CinemaScope
99 min. / Technicolor / 2.35:1
On All-Region Blu-ray from Eureka!

A young farmboy and his sister head off to Court, supposedly in service of Earl of Alban but really to snoop around and discover their family secret: seems (unbeknownst to them) their father and all other relatives were put to death years earlier for treason on the testimony of the Earl - and if anybody discovers who they are, they'll join dear ol' dad at the bottom of the moat. The farmboy is gettin' up in the world, though, and is preparing for knighthood, only that's really just an excuse to kill him in a joust and King Henry is in danger and his son Prince Hal is only pretending to be a drunkard and there's a lot of romance betwixt the farmboy and Lady Anne, let me tell you.

You may recall that I recently raved about another swashbuckler in CinemaScope and Technicolor (and also with Janet Leigh) from the same year, Prince Valiant. This one isn't as good, frankly, although it's marred by the same big problem Val had: a not-too-good leading man, in this case, Tony Curtis, who simply can't shake that Bernie Schwartz accent and whose physical prowess is, well, okay at best (he leaps around a lot, but sans much grace or flair). Miss Leigh is lovely and wears some of the most fetching gowns in all moviedom; Barbara Rush is her pretty sidekick, David Farrar is the rotten Earl, Herbert Marshall is the good Earl, Gene Chandler is the Duke of Earl, and Torin Thatcher is Sir James. Ian Keith is the King, God save 'im.

There's a lot of color and spectacle, which I liked, jousting and swordplay, which I liked a lot, and romance, which I consider "meh" in a movie like this unless there's some bodice-rippin' goin' on.

Million-dollar Dialog:
How they insulted people in those days, as the Earl refrains from runnin' Bernie through with a lance: "Be thankful the lady has found your favor. BUMPKIN!"

Because this was a Universal picture and Robert "Francis the Talking Mule/Abbott & Costello" Arthur produced it, I was hoping for more comedy, along the lines of Shemp Howard or Billy Gilbert showing up in Maria Montez pictures of a decade earlier, and that sort of tomfoolery is sorely missed here. I have no real problems with Tony Curtis (nor any real affinity for him, either) but he's simply woefully miscast and the picture can't fly with that sort of albatross 'round its film canister, despite the glorious battles and color.

The Eureka Blu-ray is magnificent, the colors really pop and there's great depth to both the visuals and sound - simply stunning.

More of a time-waster though than a great adventure film. And since I know you're wondering, no, he doesn't say "Yonda lies da castle of my fodda." I listened for it.
"I'm glad that this question came up, because there are so many ways to answer it that one of them is bound to be right." - Robert Benchley
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The closest Curtis ever gets to the legendary "Yonda lies da castle of my fodda," is in the film Son of Ali Baba. The actual line is a bit different; and, as you can hear, Tony's lessons with the Universal speech coaches have borne fruit. Listen to him carefully enunciate at 29:50:

"For life is short, but death is long."
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I recall this as being one of those good-enough adventures, a shade thrifty for an A but not so obviously cheap as a programmer, and (as noted above) oddly humorless. Although I do recall the sort-of subplot of Tony's new best friend, eagerly facilitating Tony's romance so he could make time with Tony's sister. There was something almost collegiate comedy about that.

I'm still waiting for Universal's "King's Pirate", a very television-flavored remake of "Against All Flags" with Doug McClure, Jill St. John, and stock footage from the original. And the last of the Hall / Montez / Sabu / Bey epics.
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