During the 1700s, pirate Captain Vallo seizes a British warship and gets involved in various money-making schemes involving Caribbean rebels led by El Libre, British envoy Baron Jose Gruda, and a beautiful courtesan named Consuelo.
During the Rif War in Morocco, the French Foreign Legion's outpost of Tarfa is threatened by Khalif Hussein's tribes but Sergeant Mike Kincaid devises a plan of survival until the arrival of French reinforcements.
Twelfth-century Lombardy lies under the iron heel of German overlord Count Ulrich 'The Hawk', but in the mountains, guerillas yet resist. Five years before our story, Ulrich stole away the pretty wife of young archer Dardo who, cynical rather than embittered, still has little interest in joining the rebels. But this changes when his son, too, is taken from him. The rest is lighthearted swashbuckling, plus romantic interludes with lovely hostage Anne.Written by
Rod Crawford <email@example.com>
Although numerous sources have claimed that the project was originally intended for Errol Flynn, by 1950 Flynn's physical condition had deteriorated to a point that precluded his playing the role. See more »
The outlaws' pet bear cub is a Malayan Sun Bear, of which there could have been none in medieval Italy. See more »
Set in a little-remembered historical setting, the 1950 Warner Bros. swashbuckler "The Flame and the Arrow" finds its star, Burt Lancaster, showing off his great acrobatic prowess for the first time on screen. Since his spectacular debut in 1946's "The Killers," Lancaster had been featured in a run of moody, dramatic and noirish thrillers, but here, in his 10th picture (not counting his cameo appearance in 1947's "Variety Girl"), Burt finally seemed to be having some fun on the big screen. Appearing in color for the first time, big Burt here plays a character named Dardo Bartoli. A single father who lives in the Lombardy region in what we must presume to be the mid-12th century (the period when the Lombard League was formed to oust the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa and his Hessians, who had captured Milan in 1158 and burned it in 1162), Dardo has more than ample reason to be aggrieved with the Hessian Count Ulrich, aka The Hawk (hissably portrayed by Frank Allenby). Dardo's ex-wife had earlier "taken up" with the count, and his young son Rudi is soon kidnapped and ensconced in the count's well-guarded castle. Thus, accompanied by his friend Piccolo (Lancaster's boyhood pal Nick Cravat), the two attempt a rescue, but must ultimately content themselves with the kidnapping of the count's luscious niece, Anne of Hesse (beautiful-as-always Virginia Mayo), in the hopes of an exchange. But complications, both logistical and romantic, naturally ensue....
"The Flame and the Arrow" is a film that seems to be not as highly regarded as Lancaster and Cravat's follow-up swashbuckler, 1952's "The Crimson Pirate," which, in the interest of complete honesty--and to my own personal embarrassment--I must admit to not having seen. Still, the duo's initial outing has much to offer to the fun-loving fan of Saturday matinée-type entertainments. Lancaster and Cravat--who had formed the Lang and Cravat acrobatic team in the 1930s and performed extensively in circuses and nightclubs--get to show off their physical stunts here in various action situations, and although the two were hardly youngsters at this point (Burt was 37; Nick, 39), they are still remarkably impressive. No need for stuntmen with these two around, that's for sure! The film throws in a number of rousing combat scenes, and concludes with one of the great unsung swordfights in screen history, between Dardo and the traitorous Marchese Granazia (a nicely ambiguous performance from Robert Douglas); just look at how ferociously Burt swings his sword around in this scene! Virginia Mayo, a year after her terrific performance as James Cagney's moll Verna in "White Heat," looks absolutely sensational here in supersaturated Technicolor, and famed character actors Aline MacMahon and Victor Kilian are just fine in smaller roles. But this is most assuredly Burt's picture all the way, and his manifest joy in playing a physical-action character in a period swashbuckler is quite contagious. With that flashing grin and million-dollar set of teeth, no wonder all the girls in Lombardy seem to have a major thang for him! And thus, how little sympathy the viewer has for Dardo's wife, Francesca (Lynn Baggett), who would give up this man, as well as her cute son (appealingly played by young Gordon Gebert), in order to live with the evil but wealthy count!
"The Flame and the Arrow" was directed by the great Jacques Tourneur, the French-born filmmaker who is perhaps best remembered today for his 1940s RKO horror films--"The Cat People," "I Walked With a Zombie" and "The Leopard Man" (all made for producer Val Lewton)--as well as for the cult item "Curse of the Demon"; here, Tourneur demonstrates that he could be just as skilled and effective in another, nonhorror genre. Finally, I would be remiss if I failed to mention the lovely score that has been provided here by the renowned Max Steiner, who had previously contributed to such "minor" films as "King Kong," "Top Hat," "Gone With the Wind," "Sergeant York," "Now, Voyager," "Casablanca," "Mildred Pierce," "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre" and, again, "White Heat," in addition to a few hundred others (what an amazing career!). A classy affair from start to finish, "The Flame and the Arrow" is very much your standard Hollywood adventure fare, but done to a turn by a cast and crew that obviously took great pride in their craft; truly, a rousing entertainment for audience members of all ages.
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