The Prisoner of Zenda (1979)

PG  |   |  Adventure, Comedy  |  17 August 1979 (USA)
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Anthony Hope's classic tale gets a decidedly 'un-classic' treatment at the hands of Peter Sellers. Following the story somewhat, friends of the new King Rudolph of Ruritania fear for his ... See full summary »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
General Sapt
The Countess
The Count
Graham Stark ...
Michael Balfour ...
Arthur Howard ...


Anthony Hope's classic tale gets a decidedly 'un-classic' treatment at the hands of Peter Sellers. Following the story somewhat, friends of the new King Rudolph of Ruritania fear for his life, and switch him with a look-a-like London cabby. Throw in two(!) lovely blondes, treachery, and a battle for life and honour, and enjoy life at its zaniest. Written by Derek Picken <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Adventure | Comedy


PG | See all certifications »




Release Date:

17 August 1979 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

O Prisioneiro de Zenda  »

Box Office


$12,500,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


| (Ontario)

Sound Mix:

(Westrex Recording System)



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The first screen version of "The Prisoner of Zenda" made as a comedy though the TV show The DuPont Show of the Month: The Prisoner of Zenda (1961) is also humor. See more »


Rudolf IV: Michael, why do you hate me so?
Duke Michael: Because you are conceited, arrogant, spineless, selfish, shallow, pity, pompous and pitiful!
Rudolf IV: But apart from that?
See more »


Referenced in The Secret Life of Brian (2007) See more »

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User Reviews

an unknown treasure
17 June 2007 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

The new king is a fop, and a London cabbie, who is a gem, looks just like him (the old king used to come to London for recreation) so the cabbie is hired to stand in for the king. While assassins try to kill him, the pretty lady sees him for what he is - and falls in love with him. I cannot give away the ending, it's too amazing.

This movie is full of jokes of all kinds, from subtle funny looks, to hilarious switcheroos; I think Peter Seller's very best movie. He's very funny, from the slapstick to the dumb looks in strange situations, etc. He was abused in the Pink Panther movies - having to do the same jokes over and over. Here we see some different ones, and quite good too. "She did an owl!!!" "He did a chicken!!" "What are you doing?" "That's my secret chicken signal." "You can't do that; that's my secret chicken!!!" "Whooo whooo!!!" "Bok bok bok!!!" The principle actors do their parts very well. I find myself cheering for the valiant cabbie, what a dude! and disgusted by the foppy prince - and have to stop and realize, it's the same actor! The actresses are one thing they certainly should be: gorgeous. And some of the minor parts are really nicely played, too. "Take this." "What is it?" "It's a ring, stolen from the Hapsburgs. It's priceless." Jailer squints at it trying to decide if it's worth risking his life over, and drops it in the sewer. "Ow... got anything else?" The look on his face is perfect.

And there are themes of vast import behind the story. We are all fops and gems, rolled into one; the gem part of us is a prisoner inside, and the fop is what the world has cultivated.

I haven't seen much of the other movies based on this same book, but this one does the story justice, and adds the funny element. I'd say it well improves the book, which was a little too baroque for my tastes.

This movie has the one flaw that it looks like it was made in the 40's or 50's: the special effects are cheap, like the king falling down the well - these people could have gotten those effects looking better, but they chose not to for some reason. Let's assume that it was because they loved the old time movies with those fake-looking special effects. I just think of it as quaint and relax and enjoy the show. Maybe they spent their budget on sets and costumes - a lot of them look pretty elaborate. My copy is a VHS I taped off of WKRP or somewhere one night

  • the music sounds like it's been thru the grinder - and I still watch

it occasionally and enjoy it for its immense merit as a story, and the acting and the jokes. Actually the fights aren't all that bad. I actually like the one on top of the carriage. Pretty amusing... "We're driverless!!!" "Not while I'm here you're not!"

5 of 8 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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