A disinherited 13th Century Saxon nobleman leaves Norman England with an archer friend to seek his fortune in the Far East.A disinherited 13th Century Saxon nobleman leaves Norman England with an archer friend to seek his fortune in the Far East.A disinherited 13th Century Saxon nobleman leaves Norman England with an archer friend to seek his fortune in the Far East.
Vivid Adventure; Unusual; Jack Cardiff's Work Plus Jack Hawkins
This is a feature film about which viewers cannot even begin to agree. Some believe it to be a major production with award-winning costumes, good actors, a vivacious leading lady, a clever story-line and colorful thirteenth-century adventures. Others deny all these judgments and assertions. The only thing that all its fans agree upon is that the movie was unusual, worth-making and worth discussing. The novel by Thomas B. Costain is clever and perhaps not-entirely-historical. It is a fictionalized biography and a recreation of an era that sets two Saxons against their Norman overlords at a time when this may have been an old-fashioned attitude; but this gives Walter of Gurnie an excuse to leave his homeland and his studies, with a companion, Tristram Griffin, master of the English longbow, to take service with Bayan of the Hundred Eyes, General to the Great Khan of China.. The other elements in the plot line are thus Bayan's inscrutable personality--he and Walter play chess and debate; Griffin's prowess with a weapon that astonishes the Easterners who see him employ it; and the two men's love for a disguised girl who is forced to flee and joins their caravan, she who is the titular "Black Rose" of the piece. The screenplay by adventure writer Talbot Jennings (developed from Costain's logical but slightly creaky novel) is perhaps a very good one; it is my assertion that with a bit more money and a better leading lady, the film might be more famous and even more appreciated. It deserves an updated remake, in my view. The director of the piece was veteran Henry Hathaway; he makes the events seem both realistic and important, never stooping to trickery to try to inject excitement at the points where none is indicated by the script. Richard Addinsell composed the music for the film, and William C. Andrews provided the art direction. The costume designs by Michael Whittaker I find to be quite serviceable and good for the period, but not extremely exciting. The cinematography by Jack Cardiff is as beautiful as it always is; the film looks as good as budgetary constraints permit in either B/W or color, which is quite a feat. it is played as an adventure; I believe it could be refashioned as a dramatic work; but what we have here is an engaging and rewarding script and production. Tyrone Power is a bit too-old for a student, but he is attractive and vivid in the lead. Jack Hawkins steals the film due to his charisma, energy and award-level interpretation of Tristram. Orson Welles is interesting and enigmatic as the general. As the Black Rose, Cecile Aubrey is adequate, often charming and able to get the basics of her very youthful part across but not much more. Michael Rennie, Finlay Currie. Herbert Lom, Mary Clare, Henry Oscar as Roger Bacon and Laurence Harvey are also featured. I like the film, and have good memories of reading the novel and seeing it years ago. It holds up well, due to its solid construction; but I yearn to remake it as a drama worthy of the very-interesting story-line even moreso. Watch for the great archery contest--surely the visual highlight of this adventure production.
- Jul 27, 2005
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