In 15th century England, a civil war called Wars of the Roses is being fought between two rival houses who want the throne. Fresh from battle, a knight finds his family dead. He joins the outlaws led by the Black Arrow to seek justice.
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Sir Richard Shelton, a young British nobleman, returns from the War of the Roses to find his father dead and his accused murderer, Sir John Sedley, living in the forest with a fugitive band of die-hard rebels like Robin Hood. Shelton's uncle, his father's sinister and cruel half-brother, Sir Daniel Brackley, is living on his father's estates and has reinstated cruel corporal punishment among the peasants, something his father had abolished. Shelton's suspicions are aroused when a yeoman loyal to Brackley is murdered using a black arrow. Other Brackley henchman, including Shelton's former mentor and Master-at-Arms, who had access to the supposed murder of his father by Sedley are also on the Black Arrow's death list. Shelton's growing antipathy toward Brackley is complicated by his uncle's desire to marry Sedley's beautiful daughter, an ambition shared by Shelton. Written by
THE BLACK ARROW, based on a historical novel by Robert Louis Stevenson, is an American-made swashbuckler that's set in England and tells a tale that's very reminiscent of the Robin Hood story. Set in the aftermath of the Wars of the Roses, it sees a soldier return home to find his father murdered, apparently by a rival, although he soon discovers that the murderers lay close at hand and that foul play was involved.
This is a light and breezy affair, with a fast pacing and plenty of action to recommend it. The swordfights are conducted in the classic manner with the opponents adopting fencing stances and a general old-fashioned feel to them. Louis Hayward, the erstwhile hero, is a guy I didn't find particularly charismatic, but the supporting cast of dastardlies and outlaw heroes is a well-chosen one.
Of course, never for a second does this film convince you that it's set in England, and the American accents of some of the cast members don't help much. Nonetheless it's an entertaining piece, with all of the jailbreaks, skullduggery, rescues and escapes you could hope for in an adventure movie. The ferocious jousting climax is a real highlight and surprisingly barbaric for its time.
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