(Reviews by Patrick Dorsey, SLFC President)
The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)
Errol Flynn, Olivia De Havilland, Basil Rathbone. Directed by Michael Curtiz.
The DEFINITIVE Robin Hood Movie. Errol Flynn stars as Robin of Locksley, a Saxon noble who turns his sword and skills against Prince John (Claude Rains) and Sir Guy (Basil Rathbone) when they try to steal the throne from the absent King Richard. Historically, there's practically nothing accurate about the costumes or swordplay, but the movie's so darn much fun and the action so exciting, who cares? Watch Basil Rathbone in this. A world-class fencer who turned to acting, his fencing scenes always combine the best of theatrical and sport fencing, lending a realism to his fencing that many movie fencers lack.
The Sea Hawk (1940)
Errol Flynn, Flora Robson, Claude Rains. Directed by Michael Curtiz.
Another great swashbuckler, featuring Flynn as a pirate captain in service to Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth.
The Mark of Zorro (1940)
Tyrone Power, Linda Darnell, Basil Rathbone. Directed by Rouben Mamoulian.
Tyrone Power stars in this exciting tale of a Spanish nobleman who at night dons a mask and turns his sword to fight the injustices of the tyrannical governor of old California. Thrilling, with excellent swordplay (again, Rathbone showing that if not for the script, the hero wouldn't stand a chance!), this is an exciting story that lays the groundwork for such modern characters as Batman.
Watch also for the high-quality 1975 TV re-make featuring Frank Langella as a left-handed Zorro!
The Great Race (1965)
Tony Curtis, Natalie Wood, Jack Lemmon, Peter Falk, Keenan Wynn, Ross Martin. Directed by Blake Edwards.
A wild farce from Blake Edwards about a turn-of-the-century around-the-world race between a daredevil hero in white (Curtis) and his wacky, black-caped nemesis, (Lemmon). Not really a fencing movie except for a terrific sequence between Curtis and Martin during a Prisoner of Zenda sendup at the end of the film. Curtis, a former collegiate fencer, really shows his stuff—watch his footwork especially, and there's no doubt he knows exactly what he's doing with the weapon. Overall, a lot of laughs and a lot of fun!
The Three Musketeers (1973) and
The Four Musketeers (1974)
Michael York, Oliver Reed, Raquel Welch, RIchard Chamberlain, Faye Dunaway, Charlton Heston. Directed by Richard Lester.
Really one movie that's cut into two. Some call them too farcical, but I see them simply as light-hearted. Probably the best version of Dumas's tale of King Louis's musketeers and their adventures against the agents of the scheming Cardinal Richelieu (Heston, in the performance of his career!). Fights were arranged by the great William Hobbs, and show all the strengths of his choreography—a desperation and immediacy that takes the place of the standard intricate and rehearsed exchanges.
The Count of Monte Cristo (1975)
Richard Chamberlain, Tony Curtis, Louis Jourdan, Donald Pleasence, Taryn Power. Directed by David Greene.
Richard Chamberlain is chilling in his portrayal of Dumas's wrongly-imprisoned man and the calculated revenge he exacts on the accusers who schemed against him. A great plot, strong performances all around, and Tony Curtis again gets to show off with a sword.
Christopher Lambert, Sean Connery, Clancy Brown. Directed by Russell Mulcahy.
Visually dazzling and featuring performances from some of the most charismatic actors in film, Highlander is the story of a 16th-century Scotsman (Lambert) who discovers he is one of a magical race of immortals destined to fight among themselves until only one survives—and gains fantastic power. Sean Connery turns in a fine performance a the Scot's mentor, and Clancy Brown's insane, villainous Kurgan has been imitated by movie antagonists ever since. Not a fencing movie per se, the two-handed swordplay is still awesome.
The Princess Bride (1987)
Cary Elwes, Mandy Patinkin, Robin Wright, Chris Sarandon, Andre the Giant. Directed by Rob Reiner.
A funny, funny movie with a perfect blend of sweet and sarcastic, The Princess Bride is one of those rare stories that takes fairy tale conventions and turns them on their ear and still manages to be somehow be respectful of the intent of the old tales. And with more than one character claiming to be the “greatest swordsman in the world”, you know you’re in for some terrific movie fencing. “Hello. My name in Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”—don’t get up after you hear that line, or you’ll miss one of the all-time great swordfights on film.