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Crossed Swords was an independent 1953 Italian production undertaken by Errol Flynn right after the termination of his contract with Warner Brothers. Released by United Artists the following year, the costume adventure received poor reviews and distribution in the United States, and has since become the most difficult of all Flynn's adventure films to find. There has been a print in circulation for some years but, looking almost like a fifth generation video tape, it is quite hard to view.
Recently, however, a new pristine copy of the film has surfaced. While it only runs 78 minutes (as opposed to the originally listed 86 minute running time) it is quite sharp with lovely color photography. Curiously, while Flynn's voice can be heard on the English version soundtrack, co-star Gina Lollobrigida is dubbed, even though lip readers can clearly see that the actress was speaking English.
As for the film itself, it is a light-hearted attempt to rekindle the spirit of Flynn's Adventures of Don Juan from five years before. Once again Errol is a dashing adventurer/lothario making love to costumed ladies, this time in a 16th Century Italian boudoir, always ready to make a hasty window exit should their husbands return home. Alas, the film, by comparison, largely serves to remind one of just how clever and exciting the previous film had been.
Crossed Swords' screenplay is quite feeble and Milton Krim's direction often inept, frequently failing to realize scene potential. At one point the film features Flynn and co-star Cesare Danova both duelling opponents side by side, but with Danova in the foreground closest to the camera, largely blocking out the film's star! The film also seems at times crudely edited, though this may, in fairness, be more of a comment on the new truncated version than of the original production. I suspect it's a bit of both.
On the positive side, Crossed Swords is beautifully photographed by legendary cinematographer Jack Cardiff. Flynn leaps about and beams throughout the production. The actor seems to be having a good time, a marked contrast to the often grim presence that he had become in most of his post-Don Juan films. A fight sequence breaking out in a tavern is quite energetic, leading the actors to a moment of marvelous potential in which they duel on top of large wine casks. One wishes the director had made more of this moment than he did. The final duel, though, is well choreographed and surprisingly vigorous. Flynn, though doubled a bit, does most of the fencing. He has the "eye of the tiger" in some closeups in this highlight of the production and puts on a good show.
In summary, Crossed Swords is a film for Flynn fans, many of whom will enjoy watching their favorite deliver an impressive athletic demonstration for the last time in his career. As a movie, though, this often lame production only serves to remind one of what a high-water mark of excellence Adventures of Don Juan had been a few years before.
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