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This one has it all . . . thundering hoofbeats, derring-do, moonlight chases, sneering villains, and a dashing hero to entrance his lady fair, all to the rousing music of Mendelsohn's "Italian Symphony", and no Hollywood film composer could have written a more apt score. (You'll be humming it, trust me.) The underrated Wanda Hendrix is lovely in this constume drama, which is based on the legend created from the classic Noyes poem. In fact, all the veteran players are at their best, and the story gallops right along to its gripping end. This is the marvelous stuff that silver-screen dreams were made of, right before Hollywood forgot how it was done.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I saw this movie as a ten year old when it was released. Like most boys, I loved the rousing adventure, cringed at the mushy scenes, and hated the ending when Bess and The Highwayman died. I haven't seen the film as adult, so I'm not qualified to vote at present. Years later, in junior high school the Noyes poem was required reading as an example of alliteration. I loved the poem then and now. Last night, the words of the first verse kept popping into my feeble brain. Today, I pulled the poem up on the computer, re-read it, and came hunting for details of the film. I wish that I could view the film again and see if it was as good as I remember it to be. Certainly, it doesn't rank with Stalag 17 or other classic films of the fifties, but it was fun.
I actually saw this movie in the theater at the age of seven. Now that's an impressionable age, but more than 50 years later I can still envision the mist on the moors, the clouds scudding across the sky and the haunting music as one of the classic poems is beautifully brought to life. The dashing Highwayman daring all for love of the beautiful Bess; the jealous, sneaky, and lustful ostler betraying him to the authorities; the raucous redcoats lustfully jeering as they imprison the innkeeper's daughter, the brave and beautiful Bess willing to sacrifice all for her lover; who could ask for anything more in an adventure movie. This is a movie for those who just can't resist romance with a touch of ghost story.
I have not seen this movie since I was a young lad of seven, when my parents took my brother and I to the cinema to see it. Even at that young age I really enjoyed it. The swashbuckling was fantastic and there was plenty of action. It fitted in well with Alfred Noyes poem. I do not remember if it has ever been shown on television. I would dearly love to see this film again, because I am sure it would bring back so many memories.I know Philip Friend was not really well known at the time but I really enjoyed his acting. I also liked Wanda Hendrix, I always remember being married to one of my favourite Actors (Audie Murphy). All I can hope for is that it might get issued on DVD. Here's hoping. Also, other than this film there are lots of second feature films that I have never seen since I was a child. One in particular was Legions Last Patrol.
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