The young lady Panthea Vyne falls in love with the handsome highwayman who saves her from her brutal husband. He kills him in a fair duel. Later, when Charles the 2nd is reinstated as King ... See full summary »
The young lady Panthea Vyne falls in love with the handsome highwayman who saves her from her brutal husband. He kills him in a fair duel. Later, when Charles the 2nd is reinstated as King of England, she attends the royal court. But here she becomes the enemy of the king's former mistress and the plot against her thickens. Written by
Lord Lucius Vyne:
There's not much time, Milord. The boat back to France will be waiting in the next cove.
King Charles II:
Lord Lucius, I am glad you persuaded me to risk coming out of exile in France to see for myself. I know now that the people are for me. They're sick of Cromwell and his Commonwealth! They want their Charles II. But you have made powerful enemies. When I am back on the throne, if you should need me, send me this.
[hands Lord Lucius his ring]
Lord Lucius Vyne:
I am honored, sire, but I fear you will have enough ...
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Although filmed in 1988, this British made-for-TV movie captures the look and feel, the melodrama and romance, even the stagy lighting, of a big-budget 1930s Hollywood swashbuckler. By 1930s standards, it is a first-rate film. By today's standard, well, that's not really a fair standard to judge it by. It lacks the scale and fancy visual effects of "Braveheart," or "Gladiator," but in its quirky old-fashioned way, it is a better movie than either of them. And it is miles better in every possible way (including historical accuracy) than the egregious BBC/A&E "Charles II" mini-series (USA title "The Last King"), set in the same time period, with many of the same characters, that was broadcast in 2004.
"The Lady and the Highwayman" is based on a Barbara Cartland romance novel, and set in Restoration England of the 1660s. Yet with a shift of locale, and a slight re-write, it could just as well be a western. Think "Zorro." Indeed it borrows lots of bits and pieces from classic westerns -- such as Hugh Grant's character jumping from atop a 30 foot wall on to the back of his horse.
"The Lady and the Highwayman" was filmed in England, using several real period castles and manor houses as locations. Both the detailed sets and the lavish costumes mesh seamlessly with the period buildings. The costume department did a great job, as much with the soldiers' uniforms, armor, and weapons, as with the courtiers' finery.
The cast is excellent, and the dialog, by Terence Feely, was well written. 28-year old Hugh Grant looks young and suave, but doesn't say a whole lot. The star is young Lysette Anthony, then 25, and she is terrific. Oliver Reed is a menacingly villainous Phillip Gage. Michael York is a dashing King Charles II.
I just saw the film on a $1 DigiView DVD sold by WalMart. It was definitely not a digital transfer -- but its graininess and off colors actually enhanced the impression of its being a 1930s film, rather than 1980s. It's no classic, but I enjoyed watching it, and I've seen plenty worse. 6/10.
For another quirky and retro view of 17th century England, check out "Winstanley" by Kevin Brownlow.
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