"The Prince and the Pauper" aka "Crossed Swords" is a lavish and lively adaptation of the Mark Twain classic. Producing the picture were the Salkinds, the father and son team responsible for "The Three Musketeers" films, as well as the "Superman" blockbusters. Released in England by Twentieth Century Fox as "The Prince and the Pauper" in 1977, it reached American shores (now distributed by Warner Brothers) in 1978 as "Crossed Swords" and with eight minutes of footage deleted.
Veteran director Richard Fleischer moves the familiar story along quite briskly, while still giving audiences ample opportunities to appreciate the handsome sets and costumes. The all-star cast is mostly impressive. Mark "Oliver" Lester is too old and stiff to give a truly authentic performance in the dual role of Prince Edward and pauper Tom Canty, but he doesn't spoil the film. Oliver Reed is a hearty and touching Miles Hendon, and Ernest Borgnine, fake cockney accent or not, shines as the pauper's cruel father. Charlton Heston perhaps overdoes the part of old King Henry, but how else can you play a character like that? Rex Harrison is smooth as an ill-fated Duke, George C Scott impresses as a beggar king, Raquel Welch looks stunning in her too-few scenes as Edith, Hendon's true love, and she beautifully underplays her part (though her surprising adeptness at comedy is evident here as well). The same cannot be said for scenery chewing David Hemmings, cast as Hugh, Hendon's evil brother, who forced Edith into an unhappy marriage. Among the supporting cast are such familiar faces as Harry Andrews, as a duplicitous Court Minister, Julian Orchard as a court fop, and Sybil Danning as Tom's mother. Two young beauties (Lalla Ward and Felicity Dean) appear as, respectively, future Queen Elizabeth and Lady Jane.
With a rousing music score by Maurice Jarre, perfect for a swashbuckler like this, and beautiful scenery photographed by the great Jack Cardiff, this is light-hearted, spirited adventure at its finest. Surprisingly, the film did not fare well on either side of the Atlantic but, like most period adventures, it has worn well. Incidentally, the DVD release restores the cut footage and includes a theatrical trailer and television spot (for the U.S. release) which compliment the flawless Anamorphic Widescreen transfer. [phillindholm]