This 1952 Richard Thorpe swashbuckling costumer is a virtual shot-for-shot remake of a 1937 version of the same Anthony Hope novel (which had also been made into two previous silent film adaptations), only this time done in grand MGM technicolour splendour. I haven’t seen the earlier films or even read the book, so bear that in mind when I tell you that this film was jolly good fun. Thorpe is often referred to as a ‘one-take’ director, but just look at some of the fine costumers he has made; “Ivanhoe”, “Knights of the Round Table”, “Quentin Durward” (all with Robert Taylor in the lead, just out of interest). He even directed Elvis in one of his better films, “Jailhouse Rock”. Sometimes, one shot is all you need to get it right!
Although he makes a terrible drunk (Hmm, maybe a few retakes might’ve been handy here after all, Mr. Thorpe!), Granger is thoroughly enjoyable in dual roles (I much prefer him as a swashbuckler to Errol Flynn and Robert Taylor), Kerr is charming too (though the material seems a tad beneath her, Douglas is rock solid, and Calhern is one of the finest of character actors. Towering over all, however, is a lip-smackingly devious Mason as the chief villain, adding a little extra Machiavellian quality to proceedings. Only Greer disappoints in a half-baked femme fatale role, barely getting enough screen time to make much of an impression.
Gorgeous colour cinematography by Joseph Ruttenberg (“Gaslight”, “Julius Caesar”, “Gigi”, “Kind Lady”) is of the usual opulent MGM standard. If you’re a fan of this sort of thing, you’ll surely get some enjoyment out of this, the story alone is still rousing and enjoyable stuff. The screenplay is by John Balderston (the 1937 version of “The Prisoner of Zenda”), Wells Root (the 1937 version of “The Prisoner of Zenda”, and the 1954 version of “Magnificent Obsession”), and Noel Langley (“The Wizard of Oz”, “Ivanhoe”, “Knights of the Round Table”).