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Douglas Fairbanks Jr.,
In a mythical, medieval North Africa (looking a lot like California) a Bedouin chief named Tamerlane is seeking to capture the magnificent wild stallion Shazada when he meets tomboyish Princess Tanya of Tunis. When the two meet again in Tunis, Tamerlane has run afoul of the barbaric Corsair Lords, one of whom Tanya's wicked cousin is forcing her to marry. To avoid this dire fate, Tanya must arrange for a "dark horse" to win the forthcoming great race...which means a battle of wits between Tanya and Tamerlane, taking romantic overtones... Written by
Rod Crawford <email@example.com>
Chandler and O'Hara in a Beautiful, Intelligent Adventure
This is physically one of the most beautiful films ever produced, in my judgment, with art direction by Bernard Hertzbrun, Bill Thomas's superb costumes, Russell Mettey's photography and wonderful outdoor scenes and lavish indoor sets. The cast is exemplary also, by any viewer's standards. Jeff Chandler has one of his best roles as Tamerlane the independent-minded Bedouin warrior, Maureen O'Hara is lovely as the exotic and intelligent Princess he wants. In the talented cast, one can also find Dewey Martin and Royal Dano as Chander's men, Maxwell Reed as the villain, Susan Cabot, Richard Egan, Buddy Baer, Lon Chaney Jr., Richard Hale and others. As if this were not enough, the author of the script was Gerald Drayson Adams, veteran of the Grecianized Near-Eastern genre; and the film was directed by action-film expert Charles Lamont. This color thriller is several things-- a strong romance, an historical adventure and a male-versus female story all in one... The clear storyline opens with Chandler and two men in pursuit of a fabled black horse, Shazzada. He is about to capture the stallion when O'Hara comes riding along and scotches his try;. She finds her father has been poisoned, and that her cousin has been named ruler--but Tamerlane had spanked her before he had learned she is a princess and before she learned that her father lies dying. She is grateful for his saving her from the stampeding horses, and forgives his understandable anger, promising to repay his help. Both head for the city of Tunis separately, and she hears her father's last speech. He leaves her cousin in command of the city and dies; his final order is that the Barbarossas, red-bearded corsair pirates, not be given her hand in marriage as they have asked. They threaten the city, by their mere presence in the harbor with two warships at present. The cousin vows a holy oath promising to protect her. That day also, Chandler arrives to sell the one fine blooded mare he did capture on his hunt. At the Barbarossas' camp, their champion's favorite, Susan Cabot, causes the death of one man by enticing him and the champion slays him with a dagger, all according to the Corsair Law. The new king arrives and is coerced into agreeing to the marriage after all. Then Chandler arrives, once he has left, just as the cruel pirates are ignoring the pleas of newly-captured Christian slaves. He offers his mare for sale. The two Corsair lords tell him to leave her till the morning. Before he can depart, Cabot dances again and flirts with him. The angry champion challenges him to a duel over her. Chandler chooses an Israelite sling against the other's dagger as weapons and kills him. Cabot howls for revenge; Tamerlane and his man hide, as the corsairs' men seeks them through the city. To escape their pursuers, he boldly goes to the palace and demands audience with the princess. She is contemplating suicide rather than marry one of the Barbarossas as her cousin has informed her she must. Arguing with Tamerlane, she learns he is off to catch the black stallion, and sends her own men to try to beat him to the great horse--because he is the swiftest horse in Arabia and only he can outrun the Barbaraossa brothers' champion steeds. He goes; she brilliantly announces to the brothers that the winner of the grand Taifa horse race will be the one able to name whom she marries. They expect to win the race as they have in the past and so agree, laughing raucously about the prospect. The capture goes well, for Tamerlane. But when the great race begins, he is hidden nearby and enters, after the others, saluting the Princess. What he can only guess is that the cousin has threatened him with death if he does win. The race is run fairly, and he finally outdistances the furious brothers. Tossing to the Queen her royal token which she had given to him, he proclaims that she is free to wed the man of HER choice; then he dashes off. The king orders him caught. but the brothers know no horse in the land can catch him, and trample the new king to death in their barbaric wrath. Meanwhile, the princess quits the royal palace with its death, cruelty and intrigue, and she goes to Tamerlane; then they learn they both have much to teach each other. This is a splendidly-photographed and lavish-looking "B" film. It is a classic of its genre and very satisfying on many counts, not the least of which is the ethical stature of the lovers and the capabilities of the actors who play them so unusually well. Its message about being free of restraints in order to be truly happy would play well in any nation of freedom-loving minds; it was indifferently reviewed and received in the United States, whose leaders had turned against the independent mind long since without officially admitting this had been done. I predict it will be rediscovered in the future, many times.
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