|Index||3 reviews in total|
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
That's the third time I watch it. I have it in a widescreen edition,
taped off from french TV in the early nineties. Universal stuff, in the
early days of Tony Curtis' career. I will put it on the same scale as
BLACK SHIELD OF FALSWORTH or PRINCE WHO WAS A THIEF. Entertaining movie
but not for the history buffs; real, actual history events specialists,
I mean. I am not a historian myself, but this kind of movie is always
filled up with anachronisms.
And the most laughable is at the beginning of this picture, when a man on a carriage crosses a forest, in the 1803 France, and when we can hear monkeys squeals in the trees. IN 1803 France !!!, as if we were in the Africa !!! As if we were in a Tarzan adventure.
As far as I know, Bruce Humberstone - the director - has never made any more movie for Universal Pictures. But perhaps I am wrong. He was rather a Twentieth Century Fox "yes man". And he made especially comedies and Charlie Chan adventures, except FURY AT FURNACE CREEK, TEN WANTED MEN - westerns - and the famous I WAKE UP SCREAMING, a great film noir, starring Betty Grable, Victore Mature and Laird Cregar.
This is yet another vintage Hollywood costumed adventure romp, a
"Scarlet Pimpernel" clone that proves to be a modest but lively
swashbuckler with Tony Curtis cutting a dashing figure as the titular
masked avenger (who, predictably, utilizes a foppish countenance as
cover). Though awarding the film per se no stars at all, the late
eminent British critic Leslie Halliwell nevertheless recommended
Curtis' contribution here when denoting the more noteworthy genre
exponents in his "Filmgoer's Companion" (an informative and vastly
entertaining tome which I used to consume in my younger days but,
having now been overtaken somewhat by up-to-date information which can
be gathered more readily via the Internet, I do miss leafing through)!
Anyway, though the narrative pretty much follows the traditional pattern with The Purple Mask even taking time out for romance (with unknown but adequate Colleen Miller) amid his action-packed and danger-fraught exploits it's given a considerable boost by once again providing (as did BOTANY BAY : see my review elsewhere) a formidable antagonist for the hero in Dan O'Herlihy who, like him, is not above using deceptive cunning in carrying out his task and eventually engages Curtis in a fencing duel by the shadow of the guillotine! Also on hand in the villainous stakes are John Hoyt as the incompetent Chief Of Police, Gene Barry as a Captain Of The Guards (who is also conveniently enamored of the leading lady) and, perhaps most surprisingly of all, Robert Cornthwaite (best-known for playing the misguided scientist in Howard Hawks' THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD ) as Napoleon Bonaparte! Therefore, this was O'Herlihy's first on screen encounter with Napoleon since he would later also appear in the Russian epic WATERLOO (1971; with Rod Steiger); on the other hand, O'Herlihy had also just come from playing a monarch himself and an ally of Tony Curtis in their previous (and superior) collaboration, THE BLACK SHIELD OF FALWORTH (1954).
Incidentally, the script makes a passing but interesting reference to France's then-First Consul's own bid for power: while he seemed to side with the Revolutionaries, Napoleon secretly harbored a wish for Royalist restoration (which would eventually occur, albeit briefly, in 1804 a year after the events depicted in the film with himself as Emperor). Finally, THE PURPLE MASK along with another popular Universal swashbuckler, the Rock Hudson vehicle CAPTAIN LIGHTFOOT (1955), which I had tried to acquire recently but ended up with only 20 minutes of playable film! is conspicuous by its absence on DVD; consequently, I had to make do in this case with an edition culled from a panned-and-scanned TV screening which, bafflingly, ran for a mere 75 minutes: the movie's full-length is given in various sources as 82 (which, even making allowances for PAL speed-up, would still leave some 4 minutes unaccounted for!).
"The Purple Mask" is a standard swashbuckler with not much pretensions
on the line of the masked avengers that fight for what they think right
in a hidden personality (tha "Zorro" series, "The Scarlet Pimpernel" or
"The Black Tulip" could be clear examples).
Most colorful and rather fast in its development (which is good) the film is in the limit of entertainment for fans of the genre. Romance and acceptable swordplay are there too.
A young Tony Curtis in the main role is no Errol Flynn, but he reaches the level of the movie. Angela Lansbury, Dan O'Herlihy, Gene Barry and John Hoyt (a usual villain) are there too. Robert Cornthwaite doesn't fit as Napoleon, and it is hard to believe that Bonaparte would take so much trouble with just a lonely masked guy that is against his plans for dominating Europe.
Just a watch is enough even if you are a swashbucklers fan.
|Plot summary||Ratings||External reviews|
|Plot keywords||Main details||Your user reviews|
|Your vote history|