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The American director Henry Levin once described THE DARK AVENGER as a "western in armour", which is an apt description of this colourful saga. The casting is hilarious: Errol Flynn, born in 1909, plays the son of Michael Hordern, born 1911. Although Sir Michael aged quickly, Flynn is no spring chicken either, and looks all of his 46 years. The result of living in the fast lane is right up there on the screen. Christopher Lee shines in one of his early roles and demonstrates keen swordmanship in his duel with Errol Flynn. Actually Lee duels with British Olympic sabre champion Raymond Paul - with Flynn taking over in the close-ups. The supporting cast is full of future TV household names. Rupert Davies and Ewen Solon had considerable success years later in "Maigret". Richard O'Sullivan, a talented child actor, went on to play swashbuckler "Dick Turpin" in the 70's. Fans of Patrick McGoohan had better not miss the beginning of this movie, the star of the cult TV classic "The Prisoner" only has a few lines in a brief appearance. This movie always crops up on Sam Kydd's filmography but spotting him is virtually impossible, maybe Sam was edited out of the finished film. THE DARK AVENGER was filmed on the abandoned IVANHOE lot and is enjoyable comic strip history, it's a good way to spend a rainy Sunday afternoon.
The reviewers here are full of semi-dismissive 'average, seen it before' type criticisms. Well now, I think if you take a good look at this thing you'll find a good amount of bone jarring, armor clanking broadsiding. Even the talk is entertaining- I guess I have a weakness for truculent knights shouting at each other about their 'rights' and 'honor' and so forth. Good stalwart English cast adds to the authenticity. Yeah, I know Joanne Dru is the boring weak link, but this is a guy flick and unless the ladies actually get naked the guys aren't going to care about them that much. And Errol sure did look every one of his 46 years; but Errol's still Errol to me, no matter. The VHS print is very crummy, too. If they could find a clean, widescreen print of this film and put it out on DVD, I'd snap it up in a minute!
During the Hundred Years' War, in the aftermath of the English victory
at Poitiers King Edward the Third (Michael Hordern) lays down the terms
of his truce to a group of captured French nobles: If they promise to
submit to English rule in their province of Aquitaine, they'll be
released and allowed to keep their lands and titles.
Although the nobles are at first inclined to tell the King what he can do with his truce, even at the cost of their lives, the wilier Comte de Ville (Peter Finch) persuades them that the wiser move would be to appear to accept the truce while working on the sly against their English overlords.
So the stage is set for nasty plots and feats of derring-do, as the King leaves his son, Prince Edward (Errol Flynn) to rule the barely-pacified province in his stead, while he returns to England. When Edward's widowed cousin and romantic interest Joan (Joanne Dru) is kidnapped by the Comte de Ville and held hostage, this hands-on monarch embarks on a quest to rescue her and her children.
Flynn the actor doesn't seem to have much zest for this production, no doubt regarding Allied Artists as a B-list outfit (as they generally were) compared with the major studios for whom he'd once worked. The romancing here is decidedly muted, compared to the classic swashbucklers of his early career. But even though his years of high living have obviously told on him, Flynn's still a commanding presence, and this role as a middle-aged warrior prince suits him well.
The story is nothing remarkable, with its share of duels and disguises and battles and hair's-breadth escapes. Although there's an interesting ambiguity to its being set during the Hundred Years' War: Here the conquering English prince is the hero, while the Comte de Ville and his French compatriots are the villains. Yet barely ten years prior to the release of this movie, who would have questioned the morality of resisting an invading army by fair means or foul? At least as regards Europe, and by this time colonialism had mostly fallen out of favor, too. So it seems to me a bit hard to believe that most viewers then or now wouldn't feel at least a little sympathy for the French conspirators, even if Edward's claim to the Aquitaine had some foundation in medieval law and custom.
For an Allied Artists flick, though, this has unusually good production values. (I was lucky enough to catch it on TCM, in letterbox format in a near-pristine print.) Besides Flynn himself, and a brief role for stunningly beautiful Yvonne Furneaux, the best things about this film are the cinematography, the fine British actors, the sets and costuming, and the staging of the battle scenes, especially de Ville's assault on the castle where Edward and Joan take refuge. For once, the armor is appropriate to the era and in a scene that's pretty unique for the genre, a pair of authentically primitive-looking cannon (yes, they had them back then) protected by a kind of giant shield-on-wheels known as a "mantlet" are used to shatter a castle gate.
This is the sort of movie that used to be called a "popcorn cruncher", before the reign of the frenetic, bloated, CGI-saturated summer blockbuster. It makes no pretense at being anything but what it is: A passable way to spend a rainy afternoon.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
But I think it's one of Flynn's best older films.
Plot is good, solid medieval action. Edward Prince has won a battle over the French, now he stays in France to rule it. French Knights don't want English lords lording over them. So they first try to assassinate him, then kidnap his lady, Joan of Kent. Edward tries to rescue her, fails, has a sword fight, joins the enemy to learn their plans, tries to rescue her again, etc, until the final big battle where the good guys have to win if it's going to make sense.
I do want to say that Errol is 46 in this film. That is not too old an age to fight as a knight. In the medieval times, the aged warrior was the most qualified to lead younger knights. He had the experience that was vital, for there was no professional Arny as we know it in those day. A man with experience in battle was more important than youthful energy. Nobles in those days would go into battle, on horseback in the front line, well past their 70th year. So Errol running around in armor at his age is not an error. In fact, The real Black Prince Edward was still fighting wars at Errol's age, albeit he died of illness when he was 7 days short of his 46 birthday. And Errol was a heavy drinker so maybe thats why he doesn't look the part. But I thought it was OK.
The love story has stuff added in such as the kidnapping, but the love between Errol and Joanna is not contrived, as history tells us Prince Edward and Joan of Kent loved each other very much. Prince Edward had a crush on her since boyhood as they grew up together. but when he grew up he decided after he to marry her off to a lordly friend of his. But after he told Joan his intention, she professed her deep love for Edward, perhaps in a similar scene as the movie shows it. Edward decided Joan was better off as his wife, not his friend. They were first cousins so that was frowned upon, but the Pope gave his permission so they were married in England and THEN went to France to rule.
In the movie Joanna Dru is too young compared to Errols age. The real Joan of Kent was two years the elder of Edward. So she should be 48 years old in the movie.
Peter Finch is a great French Knight, not a demon rebel. You can feel sorry for him, how he hates seeing France under the thumb of Edward. But in the end, you don't shed a tear at his death. But you say, there were brave men on both sides and this movie jolly well shows that bravely.
Watch it for a good time.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Walter Mirisch produced this movie in England. It was a star vehicle
for Errol Flynn, who was 46 by then. Along for the ride was Peter
Finch, only a couple of years younger. Their female co-star (Joanne
Dru) was barely in the movie and her female role was completely
eclipsed by a girl-in-a-bar cameo from Yvonne Furneaux. You got the
feeling that if Errol had been the one to choose, Yvonne would have
been his girl. Anyhow, girls in this movie are entirely incidental. So
was Errol's man-at-arms, who had barely two lines to rub together, but
he expressed himself manfully with stern expressions nonetheless. He
passed, and received, items from the lead actor with all the aplomb due
from any nervous young actor, whose first big movie role put him cheek
by jowl with the legend that was Errol Flynn. Patrick McGoohan was the
black and white chequered knight, with the yellow plume, and
shoulder-length, honey-blonde hair. Patrick McGoohan was no spring
chicken himself, at 26 or 27, but he had been a late starter, not
acting professionally until he was 22. Within five years he had
graduated from a small theatre in Sheffield, England, to the
technicolor company of the biggest movie-star in the world. He must
have been proud.
Movie-goers got full value for their box-office shilling in this film. Errol is in almost every scene. The film opens with the ending of a war between England and France. A truce has been reached and peace is meant to reign. I won't go into the politics, but in this movie, the French Nobles are unhappy that the son of Edward III is a fair-minded fellow who tells the French peasantry that they no longer have to pay unreasonable taxes and perform other onerous duties for their aristocracy. The Nobles decide to rebel, and break the truce. Leading this treachery is Peter Finch's 'Count d' Evil'..... Viewers are left in no doubt as to which side to be on! Any doubts are settled when d'Evil sends men under-cover to try and assassinate the English prince. The plot is foiled, with the help of sturdy man-at-arms, McGoohan, who clashes steel with the bad guys as he defends his principal man. As the plot is averted, Flynn rides out with an expeditionary force, seeking revenge and to bring the evil one to justice.
The conflict goes badly for Flynn at first. He appears to only have about twenty knights so how he thought he could win, is a bit of a puzzle. Presumably the Mirisch knight-budget was a little thin. Soundly thrashed by an equally colourful, but more numerous French force, Errol Flynn is forced to go under cover. McGoohan's faithful manservant is assumed dead. Errol finds a touch of romance in a French country pub with Yvonne, but more importantly lays his hands on a spare set of armour, hanging above the fireplace. Blackened from long exposure to the sooty smoke, we discover how Edward's son became The Black Prince! In purloining the armour Flynn unfortunately awakes Christopher Lee, who appears to have a slight Norfolk accent. I have read Mr. Lee suffered a broken finger in the ensuing swordfight. He should feel fortunate not to have died, because his character does.
The Black Prince ingratiates himself into the evil one's French force by the simple expedient of remaining unrecognised by: 1) shaving off his moustache; 2) keeping his helmet down as much as possible and calling himself Edouard, rather than Edward. Once in the enemy castle the prince has a number of nocturnal adventures which finally result in his rescuing the damsel Dru, who has been taken hostage. He has finally been rumbled however. The evil one's superior, the French Constable, knows Edward personally and the francophile name-tweak fools him not for an instant. In a desperate chase The Black prince gets the damsel back to his castle and a mighty siege ensues.
The English seem hopelessly outnumbered (again) but finally come up trumps by setting a fire-trap for the invading French army, who blunder to a burning barrage of straw bales. Victory is achieved and the girl gets a big Flynn kiss.
Best of all though, one of the cheering knights is none other than Patrick McGoohan, in his black and white chequerboard outfit. He didn't die after all!
Once you survive the numbing and typical pageantry which marks the
beginning of the picture, the intrigue gets rather interesting. The
lousy dub on this commercially purchased VHS tape is another obstacle.
Alas, no DVD is available (though there are some crumby DVD dubs out
However, once I adjusted the contrast, brightness and beefed up the color level (a lot), it was a viewable tale the got very slowly more interesting as time went slowly on. This picture marks Finch's rise and Flynn's decline (no more to swash and buckle after this). Compare his "Captain Blood" twenty years previous and you can see what time and booze did to poor Errol.
Joanne Dru certainly DID look bored throughout, as was mentioned earlier. Perhaps the whole thing was just a costume romp for her.
It's such a shame when a decent copy of the film is apparently unavailable from which to make copies. I find the same problem with the 1940 version of "Our Town."
Years ago I read a book on the Hundred Years War by an English
historian named Desmond Siward. The author's premise was that there is
indeed an English and a French interpretation of the conflict. The
English see it as a great period of glory and conquest in their
history. The French look on it as a century of agony for their people.
Professor Siward came down pretty hard on his fellow countrymen and
said the French version is far closer to the mark.
Case in point is Edward, Prince of Wales, eldest son of Edward III of England and military genius bar none. He was in fact the architect and inspiration of their military victories at Crecy and Poitiers. Edward was also a pretty bloodthirsty guy who led a massacre at Limoges and also negotiated an alliance with the Castilian Ruler Pedro the Cruel. I'll let his name speak for itself.
The movie here has the English as liberators as Edward comes to the continent to enforce his father's claim on Aquitaine. In fact that had been part of the English crown through their descent from Eleanor of Aquitaine. In point of fact the Black Prince was there trying to enforce Dad's claim on the throne of France itself through his mother who was a daughter of the French king Philip IV the Fair. That was what the whole Hundred Years War was about, the English trying to conquer France, pure and simple.
An aged Errol Flynn who's dissipation is plainly showing is the Black Prince. He looks older than Michael Hordern who appears briefly as Edward III. I think Flynn may very well have been older than his "dad."
Joanne Dru plays Joan of Kent, widow of Sir John Holland and beloved of the Black Prince. The love story is one of the great medieval legends of Merrie Old England and maybe they should have made a film on just that. But Ms. Dru looks bored throughout. She was soooo much better in Red River, She Wore A Yellow Ribbon, and All the King's Men.
Peter Finch plays the "villain" Count Robert DeVille, deputy of the Constable of France, DuGuesclin who waged a successful guerrilla war against the English although it wasn't called that then. Finch is a villain because he and other nobles won't accept a peace treaty with England that their King John has signed in captivity. How rude of them. Finch is the best one in this film and he could easily have been written as the hero.
This was the last of Errol Flynn's swashbucklers and he was clearly getting too old for believable swordplay.
Errol Flynn stars in what would be one of his last adventures, in this movie called The Dark Avenger AKA The Warriors. The story starts with the facts concerning the Hundred Years' War, which was between England and France for control of the French throne. As the film starts, we see a battle between the British and the French (on whose soil I'm not quite sure) just ending with French prisoners being taken, one of them being Peter Finch, who is not very acquiescent to the rule of the British and doesn't mind rebelling against them and inciting a revolt among the prisoners. In order to kill Prince Edward (Errol Flynn) and overcome their imprisonment, they devise a plan to kidnap a lady, whom they know Edward has taken a fondness for, and her two younger brothers. The rest of the film concerns her rescue. Such is the plot of this pretty understandable film. Some may say, and even I, after seeing the film for the first time, that it is rather simple and not terribly exciting. And, what adds to its awkwardness is the fact that Peter Finch is not too convincing as a Frenchman, considering the fact he was British. But it does have its good points, with Errol Flynn in his well-known genre of film, the lovely Joanne Dru (game-show host Peter Marshall's sister) and a plot you can follow. With good production values, including an unusually moving score, which I liked from the opening scene, this is one of Errol Flynn's turkeys that may not be that bad, if you'll only give it half a chance.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Saw this 59 years ago and some of its images have remained buried in my unconscious, coming out at odd moments over the six tweener decades. Thus, when it hit DVD I had to check it out again. Yes, Flynn is 46 and looks like he just got stung by a jelly fish, and yes, when the swords and lances come out, the visor goes down so a real stud can do the man work, but it's a completely enjoyable romp. Unlike the Warner Bros costume pix, this one was filmed in real castles which add immeasurably to its interest; the English countryside, green and sunlit, also helps, as do first-class costumes, lots of horses and a stout cast of English yeoman actors playing English yeomen. Everyone's a pro and while Flynn hasn't the sparkle and elan of his younger days, he's a solid lad around which to build a medieval oater, even if Alan Hale had been dead five years when this one was before camera. Good music, good (but not great) fight choreography and toward the end a cast of at least a hundred make it a rouser. Plot is piffle, and it asks us to sympathize with English occupiers over French homeboys which isn't easy to do, but Peter Finch, mad as hell and not going to take it any more, makes a convincing Dastardly Villain. I've remembered him (SPOILER) getting a battle ax in the chest off a Flynn right hand pitch for 59 years, just as I've remembered the all the King's knights cheering at the end after they drove the Frenchies off. A nice revisit. One oddity: It was released in US as "The Warriors," which is certainly how it's known, to the extent that it's known at all. So why file it, Dr. IMDb, under the name "The Dark Avenger," since, btw, there's no avenging done anywhere in it, and it's so sunny and costume-crazed there's no dark here either.
Errol Flynn stars as the Duke of Aqualung (or something like that) in this boring costumer about the English protecting the French from the other French. Errol's seen better days and at this point Technicolor was not his friend. Joanne Dru plays Errol's love interest. The two don't have particularly strong chemistry but the lifeless script could douse the raging fire in anyone's loins. Peter Finch plays the heavy and does fine. He's very British and movies like this are best suited for Brits. It was a chore to get through for me but I'm trying to be fair and see what others might be seeing. I just don't think it's much fun. Even the action scenes are dull.
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