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Amando de Ossorio
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Carlos Delargo, son of a royal princess of Mandorra who has been banished, is returned to the kingdom to face a murder charge, but is freed by King Lorenzo, to whom Dalargo bears a remarkable resemblance. When the king is wounded by assassins working for Napoleon, Delargo takes over the throne, at the request of Prime Minister Triano, in a plan to thwart the traitors. He also falls in love with the king's fiancée, Princess Teresa. Written by
Les Adams <email@example.com>
This was one swashbuckler I had been looking forward to for some time but, while it did not disappoint, the overall experience was tarnished, first, by the fact that the copy acquired was of merely adequate picture quality (TCM-sourced but bearing washed-out colours bordering on monochrome during outdoor night sequences!) when it was issued as a MOD DVD-R last year and, worse, the print was missing some footage at the climax (given away by an abrupt cut from exterior to interior!) suggesting there had been a hiccup with the recording!! Now, considering the film was an unauthorized riff on "The Prisoner Of Zenda" (albeit acknowledging inspiration from an unnamed Alexandre Dumas tale, unless they were just alluding to the central dual role of his "The Man In The Iron Mask"!), it is ironic to note that, when the definitive 1937 version of the Anthony Hope classic was scheduled on local TV in the mid-1980s, I had myself erroneously pressed the pause button while taping that broadcast!!
Anyway, the title of the movie is not only generic (which is perhaps why we begin in the Moroccan desert and then move on to a more typical Ruritanian setting!) but a misnomer since protagonist Anthony Dexter was an officer in the service of the Sultan entrusted with routing brigands rather than one himself!! Even so, that very epithet is indeed applied to him by the schemers involved when the ruse of his taking over for a foppish and indisposed (via a freak hunting 'accident') lookalike ruler is discovered. A more charismatic Anthony Quinn reprises villainous usurper duties for director Karlson from the Zorro/Monte Cristo hybrid MASK OF THE AVENGER (1951), as does Jody Lawrance now dark-haired as opposed to brunette in the female lead stakes (though she has to romantically vie with Gale Robbins for the star's attention here thus demoting Quinn's second billing in the previous film to a lowly fourth in this case!). While that had been a quite pleasant effort, this is altogether superior though Dexter (his frequent dancing routines imply that he was somewhat cursed by his own resemblance to Rudolph Valentino, whom he had portrayed in a fictionalized biopic the previous year!) was essentially small improvement over John Derek, the supporting cast does include the likes of Carl Benton Reid and Ron Randell as the hero's adviser and protector respectively (functions also performed by characters found in "Zenda"!).
While such shameless borrowings (including the naturalized Arab's unfamiliarity with court etiquette but, then, the ballroom skills he displays are easily explained by his Portuguese heritage!) would normally condemn a 'B' movie such as this to mediocrity tellingly, that same year, a merely average remake (despite being a scene-for-scene copy!) of THE PRISONER OF ZENDA was released by MGM the film under review has an undeniable flair to it that one readily forgives the flaws, preferring to be engaged in the simple joys of the familiar yet still thrilling narrative (whose ending, at least, differs from its prototype)!! For the record, I have another Dexter adventure on the back-burner, namely THE BLACK PIRATES (1954), and would also be interested in checking out the similarly historical CAPTAIN JOHN SMITH AND POCAHONTAS (1953) and CAPTAIN KIDD AND THE SLAVE GIRL (1954)
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