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Prisoner of Zenda (1988)

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The King of Ruritania is kidnapped by his scheming brother: can his British double save him?


(novel), (screenplay)
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Title: Prisoner of Zenda (1988)

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Complete credited cast:
Christine Amor ...
Clair Crowther ...
(voice) (as Claire Crowther)
John Fitzgerald ...
Phillip Hinton ...
Walter Sullivan ...
David Whitney ...


Children's animation, comedy-adventure, very loosely based on the classic swashbuckler. 1902: When old King Wilhelm of Ruritania is dying, he has to choose which of his two sons is to succeed him. He chooses Prince Rudolf - much to the annoyance of Prince Michael, who immediately starts scheming... Meanwhile, a Ruritanian princess spots the new king's double, Rudolf Rassendyll, at a ball in London. Rassendyll travels to Ruritania, and finds himself not only having to stand in for King Rudolf, but also to rescue him from the dungeons of the castle of Zenda. Written by silverwhistle

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Release Date:

5 April 1990 (Finland)  »

Also Known As:

Fangen på Zenda  »

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Version of The Prisoner of Zenda (1937) See more »

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Absence of swordfights renders this animated travesty pointless in every sense
16 December 2003 | by (Glasgow, Scotland) – See all my reviews

This 1988 Australian animation, available on VHS and DVD, has to rank with the 1979 Peter Sellers version as a 'Prisoner of Zenda' too far. Under another title, it might just have passed muster as an animated comedy-adventure for a child with a low attention-span, but its relationship to the Hope novel is superficial. While some of the characters have the same names, they have been conflated or altered, and new, allegedly 'humorous' ones added.

Trying hard to think of something positive to say, all I can think of is the fact that this is the only film version to date which has given us visibly red-haired Rudolfs, and audibly German-accented Ruritanians. On the other hand, the 1902 setting (the book came out in 1894, but, given the framing device in the sequel 'Rupert of Hentzau', the setting is probably c 1876) seems to have been chosen only to allow cars and *telephones* (which would have made the original plot fall apart, if you think about it...). The old King's widow is presented as the Queen (rather than his morganatic second wife), and his rival sons as non-identical twins. Rudolf V is depicted as the younger, more virtuous and more popular son - the direct opposite of the novel. Rassendyll, with an irritating comedy sidekick called Charlie, is recruited at a diplomatic ball in London by Antoinette, who is here referred to as a princess - which I'm sure she'd have loved! Rupert of Hentzau, one of the most memorable characters, has been excised completely.

I kept wondering, what is the intended audience for this film? 'The Prisoner of Zenda' was not written for young children: it has only become relegated to the 'children's/young adult classics' bookshelf because of its lack of explicit sex and fairly moderate violence. Besides, from early childhood, I was captivated by the 1937 and 1952 talkie versions (also U-rated) on TV. A cartoon in which the landscapes are more appealing than the crudely-drawn characters (only the princesses have any charm), with no deaths (apart from old King Wilhelm at the beginning), no swordfights, and no tragically thwarted romances, would no more have appealed to me 30 years ago than it does now. Have children become so much less sophisticated?

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