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In a small New England town during the American War of Independence, Dick Dudgeon, a revolutionary American Puritan, is mistaken for local minister Rev. Anthony Anderson and arrested by the British. Dick discovers himself incapable of accusing another human to suffer and continues to masquerade as the reverend. The minister's wife, Judith, is moved by Dick's actions and mistakenly interprets them as an expression of love for her. In spite of his protestations she finds herself romantically attracted to him. Brought before British commander General Burgoyne, Dudgeon displays his willingness to die for his principles. At the last minute Dick is saved from ministerial pursuits to become a revolutionary leader. Written by
Today's film makers might learn a thing or two from this one.
Lancaster and Douglas had a rare and unique Hollywood relationship. Though they could easily have been rivals (and in some ways were), they formed a sort of onscreen "buddy team", working together many times and using their own traits of one-upmanship to lift various projects to a high level of achievement. Their competitiveness, paired with their mutual respect, led to some memorable movies. This is a lesser-known effort of theirs, but is, by no means, an inferior one. Lancaster is a gentle Revolutionary War-era minister, married to the lovely, but puritanical Scott. When the war reaches a fever pitch and local townsfolk begin to hang from the gallows, a roguish prodigal son (Douglas) returns to stir things up. Douglas and Lancaster form an uneasy alliance with each other until Douglas is arrested, mistaken for Lancaster who has buried a "rebel" without permission. The commanding British officer is Olivier, who knows that the war is hopeless, but continues to play it out with a sort of bemused detachment. Though the film contains a fair amount of action, it is really a witty, clever parade of words and thoughts (based on a George Bernard Shaw play) shedding a humorous and ironic light on a page in U.S. history. Lancaster is mellow for much of the film, but effective (and tan! The audience gets to see his muscular back in the film, though Scott is too demure to look upon it herself!) Douglas starts off VERY big, with distractingly dark and satanically groomed eyebrows. Fortunately, he overcomes this gimmick and turns in a solid performance. Olivier is very good, but doesn't really take the reigns of his role to the highest level (and has limited screen time in any case.) Andrews gives a very nice supporting turn as his exasperated right-hand man. Scott does some of her best work as the straight-laced bride who can't help but find herself drawn to the rough-hewn charms of Douglas, though the very idea tortures her. Her best moment comes when Douglas asks her to kiss him and she exclaims, "I can't!" (yet immediately thrusts herself onto him for a lengthy smooch!) As history, the film is dubious at best (and even recognizes this itself!), but, at a tight 83 minutes, it's a delightful diversion featuring a great combination of actors and stars. It doesn't overstay its welcome and has a light touch throughout. (Oh, and check out the stop-motion figures that show up during the voice-over narration! What a hoot!)
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