Enjoyable operatic costume adventure.
2 September 2020
I'd love to have been a fly on the wall at the production meeting when Michael Curtiz and Pat Duggan came up with this concept - a sort of "Camelot" meets "Quentin Durward" musical effort that is not as bad as you might think! We have here a lavish looking historical melodrama featuring Maltese tenor Oreste Kirkop as "Villon", a popular fellow amongst the people who is elected "King of the Vagabonds". Meantime the real King, Louis XI (Walter Hampden), advised by his sagely counsellor "Tristan" (Sir Cedric Hardwicke with hair!) must battle the potential usurper Duke of Burgundy (Tom Duggan) and his rather foppish sidekick "Thibault" (Leslie Nielsen). The action is interspersed by quite frequent little arias that demonstrate that our street-wise hero most certainly has a great voice; limited only by a rather poor libretto - there are only so many things that rhyme with Burgundy. The action scenes provide for plenty of colourful costumes, swash and buckle and it's decently paced with plenty of familiar faces - Jack Lord, Rita Moreno and a rather under-utilised Kathryn Grayson to prop it up nicely. Though it isn't anywhere near as good as "If I Were KIng" (1938) upon which it appears to be based, money has been spent here and it looks good even if the writing and dialogue are poor and many of the scenes pretty heavily staged. Don't write it off, though - if you like the genre then it is still worth a watch, and there's no sign of Howard Keel!
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