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Monday, June 30, 2008


George MacDonald Fraser adapted his own satiric swashbuckling novel and must have been terribly disappointed with the results. No doubt, Richard Lester seemed the likely megger after his MUSKETEERS films (Fraser's plot freely samples THE PRISONER OF ZENDA and Dumas's THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK), but nothing gels and there have been no follow-ups. Fraser's implied comic tone feels forced under the stiff staging and Geoffrey Unsworth's ultra-lux lensing, and the impressively eccentric supporting cast (Alastair Sims, Michael Horden, Lionel Jeffries, Joss Ackland) get nothing to work on. In a small bit right at the start, Bob Hoskins supplies just the right tone, but the three leads (Malcolm MacDowell, Oliver Reed & Alan Bates) are all misused, particularly MacDowell whose curdled face drains any surprise out of his cowardly triumphs. (The ladies don't register at all.) Stick with the addictive books or try BLACKADDER with Rowan Atkinson & Hugh Laurie for a bit of the Fraser spirit. (see TOM BROWN'S SCHOOL DAYS)

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