Based on satirical short stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle about a vain, egotistical Etienne Gerard, a French brigadier serving during the Napoleonic Wars. He thinks he's the best soldier and lover that ever lived and intends to prove it.
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During the Napoleonic Wars of 18th century Europe a French Hussars Colonel is entrusted by Napoleon to be his special messenger.The colonel is sent to meet French Marshal Massena who is besieging a Spanish fortress occupied by British forces and give Massena a secret dispatch from the Emperor.Colonel Gerard accepts the task and prepares himself for any type of enemy or obstacle barring his way to Morales Fortress.The only kind of enemy Colonel Gerard is not prepared for is a beautiful Spanish seductress in the person of Spanish Countess Theresa Morales.Countess Morales is the leader of the local Spanish guerrilla forces fighting alongside the British against Napoleon.Her secret task is to seduce Colonel Gerard in order to steal the secret dispatches he carries for Marshal Massena.Not only French Colonel Gerard but also British Colonel Russell falls for her Spanish charms.The two rivals are ready to duel each other to death for Countess Theresa Morales' love and for their respective ... Written by
THE ADVENTURES OF GERARD (Jerzy Skolimowski, 1970) ***
I was pleasantly surprised by this one: Leonard Maltin rates it a BOMB but I found it great fun, if uneven. Skolimowski's first English-language film was actually shot in Cinecitta' and, in fact, features many Italians in the cast (all of whom struggle with the literary - and very English - nature of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's original!).
There's still plenty of amusing detail to savor - the subject matter of the Napoleonic Wars is treated as farce most of the time and, in fact, there's quite a bit of slapstick involved (to which Skolimowski's technique is happy to oblige via numerous camera tricks, pretty much the sole link here to his early Polish films) - and, accordingly, all the performances are broadly delineated: Peter McEnery is a pompous yet likable ne'er-do-well hero; Eli Wallach is a buffoonish (and gay) Napoleon; while Jack Hawkins has a whale of a time (which, alas, happened very seldom in the films he made following the tragic loss of his voice) as the flustered leader of a bandit rabble who have adopted novel means of torture and execution, and are even dressed in Klan-type garb!
Apart from asides to the audience, McEnery also engages in a constantly interrupted duel with British officer Mark Burns - with whom he also spars for the affections of beautiful and fiery Spanish countess Claudia Cardinale. John Neville is the Duke of Wellington in his last film for almost 20 years (when he achieved some latter-day notoriety, in another tongue-in-cheek fantasia no less, with the title role of Terry Gilliam's THE ADVENTURES OF BARON MUNCHAUSEN ). Riz Ortolani contributes a suitably jaunty, yet frequently rousing, score.
Unfortunately, some of the film's visual impact was inevitably lost in the pan-and-scan version I watched (taped off Cable TV); originally shot in Panavision, I wouldn't mind owning this in its proper Aspect Ratio on DVD...
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