Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Fantasy double bill: Royal Flash & Gerard

Richard Lester's films always please. Nice to see his 1975 ROYAL FLASH is available again. This is a pleasing spoof on THE PRISONER OF ZENDA with a who's who of British talent: an early part for Bob Hoskins, the final appearance of an aged Alistair Sim and that trio of Malcolm McDowell, Alan Bates and Oliver Reed in their prime, plus Christopher Casenove, Britt Ekland and the spectacular Brazilian Florinda Bolkan as that very spirited adventuress Lola Montez (her motto being "Courage and shuffle the cards") as they love and fight across 19th century Europe.

Flashman of course is the creation of George MacDonald Fraser with that sequence of novels and who scripted this and Lester of course adds those touches which make his films from A HARD DAY'S NIGHT and HELP! on so enjoyable. This, like his ROBIN AND MARIAN and the two MUSKETEERS films are perfectly in period while also being exciting and damned funny, and also puts a great cast through their paces. (one Lester I missed was his '76 thriller JUGGERNAUT, and of course his 1967 San Francisco based PETULIA with Julie Christie is a deservedly cult movie, and those little seen items like THE BED SITTING ROOM and HOW I WON THE WAR). It is one of McDowell's better roles (like his H G Wells in TIME AFTER TIME) [there's a cult movie to discuss!] and he seems to be having great fun here as do all the cast, including Roy Kinnear, and boxer Henry Cooper. (McDowell strips again, Bates stays dressed this time).

Here, we first meet the coward and braggart Flash cavorting with famous courtesan Lola Montez and getting his bottom spanked with her bristly hairbrush, thus interrupting the aria of singer Margaret Courtenay (splendid as ever) leading to the two ladies having a duel at dawn! Reed is the glowering Otto Von Bismarck who also is enraged by Flash at the gaming tables of Victorian London, and then Bates turns up as the dastardly Rupert of Hentzau-like villain with the plan for Flash to impersonate a European prince! There are some splendid set-pieces among the alpine castles involving Tom Bell and others, as our "hero" ends up fighting in Kabul, Afghanistan - also a dangerous war zone back then!

This would make a terrific double bill with Jerzy Skolimowski's 1970 caper THE ADVENTURES OF GERARD, from Conan Doyle about the hussar Gerard and his adventues during the Napoleonic wars, with Peter McEnery in his element as Gerard, with Claudia Cardinale and stalwards Eli Wallach and Jack Hawkins (complete with voice box). This is just a memory though as the film has not been available for ages, one of those lost European films like Schlondorff's MICHAEL KOHLHAAS from '68 with David Warner and Anna Karina, about the horse trader (Warner) seeking justice no matter what cost to himself, or Cacoyannis' bizarre THE DAY THE FISH CAME OUT from 1967, already discussed here (1960s label), or Tony Richardson's THE SAILOR FROM GIBRALTAR or ....

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