The Flame and the Arrow (1950)
- Summaries (4)
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.
Dardo is introduced as a wild mountain man who is a friend to all the villagers and loved by all the village women. The enemy of the people, Count Ulrich, arrives riding with his niece Anne and his wife. Dardo who is walking with his son, shows off his skill with an arrow by shooting the hawk that Ulrich has released after the village's many pigeons. Mountain law says that any hawk found in the hills is fair game, but a gentleman's hawk is an expensive beast and in revenge the count takes Dardo's son away. He justifies this because the lady who is his wife used to be Dardo's own and the boy should be raised in the castle. Dardo manages to rescue the boy and they try to escape across the rooftops, but Dardo is struck by an arrow and so the boy saves his father by running further on and making a great deal of noise to draw the soldiers away. The boy is captured and taken to the palace where we meet the Marchese, a young Italian gentleman in trouble for not paying his taxes. He introduces himself to Anne and asks for her hand in marriage. But he is driven out of the area tied to the back of his own cart which is carrying his belongings, along with his minstrel. The soldiers happen to ride with their captives through Dardo's territory and he and his rebels appear and rescue the Marchese. An argument over who should keep possession of the Marchese's goods ensues, but as the Marchese decides to join the band of rebels all is set to rights. He ends up serving as a stable boy in the ancient Roman temple in the mountains where the rebels live. To rescue his son, Dardo decides to invade the castle, and approaches his uncle Papa Bartoli to find help. Bartoli suggests Anne's maid who is one of Dardo's many lovers. The maid helps them in but they are unsuccessful in trying to rescue the boy, instead they find themselves in Lady Anne's apartment. Piccolo, Dardo's closest friend who is also mute suggests to Dardo through various hand gestures that they kidnap the Lady and use her as a bargaining tool against her uncle. They cover her with a pillowcase and carry her away. When she arrives at their secret hiding place the Marchese tries to persuade Dardo to treat her as a Lady deserves, to which Dardo replies that he will treat her as the Count's niece deserves and puts a metal collar and chain around her neck. At the sight of the collar she makes a run for it and leaps up onto Dardo's horse and rides away, but the horse is stopped by a whistle from its master and she falls to the ground. At first dismayed to find the Marchese has given himself over to such people she then tries to cajole him with the offer of her hand in marriage but the Marchese does not believe her. She then tries to talk to Piccolo asking him why he is so loyal to Dardo, Piccolo indicates that Dardo is a 'free spirit' and that is what is attractive about him, but he does not agree with the way he has tied her up. Still Anne cannot persuade him to let her go. She requests a bath and bathes in the nearby spring whilst Dardo stays behind a rock holding the end of the chain while they talk to each other. She requests a little more length so she can reach her clothes and uses it to wrap around a tree stump while she creeps round the rock with a large stone in order to knock him on the head with it. But Dardo is wise to her scheme and foils it. The rebels get the minstrel to write a message to the Count asking for an exchange of prisoners. The Marchese requests the honor of carrying it but Piccolo is chosen. His arrival at the palace is seen as an insult and so he is beaten and told to warn his master that instead of releasing his son, the Count will capture and execute his uncle unless the Lady is returned. Piccolo returns to the camp bruised and beaten but manages to indicate to the others that they should go to the village square where the scaffold has been erected. Dardo and the others race there and fight to rescue Papa Bartoli. Having rescued Papa Bartoli, the rebels return to the temple where a large rabble of villagers carrying torches arrive. As spokeswoman, Nonna Bartoli chides Dardo for causing trouble in the village and tells him that five more prisoners are now waiting to hang in Papa's place. But Papa Bartoli manages to persuade the angry villagers that Dardo has been acting for their sake and has made things better not worse, and that he would have been proud to die for his nephew's sake that night. Dardo and the rebels go to the town square to rescue the five new prisoners, Dardo gives himself up to save the others and is taken to the scaffold for execution in front of his son. But the executioner has been replaced by a friend and we see two hooks appear from under Dardo's tunic which take the brunt of the noose's force. Ulrich declares that the body can hang there until sunset and takes the rest of the rebels as prisoner - including the Marchese. The Marchese speaks to a guard asking him to alert the Count of his presence and that he wishes to discuss a proposal of marriage. Once in the great hall he informs the Count that the rebels are planning an attack the next day. The Count is incredulous as he doesn't believe anyone can lead them now Piccolo and Dardo are both dead, at which point the Marchese reveals that Dardo is alive. As a troupe of performing artists is announced at the castle gates, the two of them discuss their plans to foil the rebels plans and set up the Marchese as Anne's husband. Anne arrives at this point, unaware that Dardo is still alive, she still declares that she will not marry him. She runs to Dardo's Aunt's house to warn them of the Marchese's betrayal, while the men hide round the corner she passionately exhorts Nonna Bartoli to tell the remaining outcasts that the Marchese and the Count are celebrating the foiling of the rebels' plans with a group of performers at the castle, confessing as she does so that she is in love with Dardo. Nonna denies all knowledge of a rescue attempt and sends the Lady away. After she has gone, Dardo's aunt persuades him that the girl was telling the truth asking why Dardo who is so easily convinced that every woman loves him cannot believe that Anne does, perhaps because he loves her too? They decide that they must attack at once. Piccolo provides a plan for getting into the castle by posing as some of the acrobats, and the minstrel who waxes eloquent on the betrayal of his master provides them with clown costumes and a bear outfit. They arrive late at the castle and are almost not allowed in but they prove they are real clowns by balancing one on top of each other's shoulders. When they arrive, Dardo and Piccolo whose faces are heavily disguised by make up, meddle with the performances of the other acrobats to make the audience laugh. The Bear prevents the master of ceremonies from reaching them to stop the chaos, but eventually he realizes that the bear is not his own live one, the rebel in the bear costume then tells him to announce Dardo's act. The pair perform by balancing a pole on Piccolo's chin which Dardo climbs, this allows him to get on to the high window frame and then Piccolo climbs the pole to join him. As they take their bows they remove their disguises and all hell breaks loose as the Count realizes that Dardo has infiltrated the castle. Ulrich arrests all the performers as well, and the minstrel persuades the master of ceremonies to tell the troupe to fight for their freedom. A big battle ensues and Dardo and Piccolo slip away using the pole to balance their way through the kitchen roofs to the cells where they free the rebels and return to join the fight in the great hall. Anne, delighted to see her beloved alive and well, cries out above the din to Dardo telling him that the Count has gone after the boy. As Dardo runs through the battle the scene changes to a broad corridor in the castle where the Marchese stands between the Count and the boy's room. He tries to persuade Ulrich to take him along when they escape, but Dardo appears behind the Count at the other end of the corridor and the Count takes the opportunity to slip past the Marchese telling Dardo that the Marchese betrayed the outlaws and therefore must be stopped. Dardo however does not wish to fight the Marchese and tries to persuade him to stand aside. But the Marchese knows that his only escape lies with the Count, and so insists on fighting allowing the Count to disappear. They battle in the corridor until the chandelier is struck and the lights go out, there is a mad scuffle in the dark, and the Marchese is killed. After the fight Dardo finds his old wife dead by a knife in the back, and pursues the Count to where he is holding the boy captive at sword-point so that he can escape untouched. Dardo finds a bow and aims carefully, killing the Count and freeing his son. With a triumphant set of acrobatics along a series of bars high up on the castle he makes his way down to ground level and the crowd holding his son, they run to each other and then Dardo spies Ulrich's niece watching and smiling, they embrace in a romantic kiss as the end credits come up.
In Northern Italy, Dardo Bartoli snubs his nose at their local Hessian conquerors. He takes his young son to the local village so the boy could see his mother who abandoned them to become Count Ulrich's mistress. When the Count sees the boy, he orders him seized and taken to the castle where he will be raised as a nobleman. Dardo, who until this point was apolitical, now joins the local rebels in their fight against their tyrannical overlords. He does however take an interest in the Count's beautiful niece, Anne de Hesse and she is soon helping them.
Dardo, a Robin Hood-like figure, and his loyal followers use a Roman ruin in Medieval Lombardy as their headquarters as they conduct an insurgency against their Hessian conquerors.
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