on 16 January 2010
It doesn't take much knowledge of film history to suss out exactly what type of film we're presented with here.
Since it was produced in the U.S. in the mid-50's, we're safe in assuming that it's not all that creditable as a source of historical edification. Also, from seeing Tony Curtis' name slotted in the lead, we can expect that it wasn't entirely an a-list vehicle, (despite the fact that this film served as the first outing in the use of Cinemascope). And, since the movie was directed by a man more famed amongst professionals as a cameraman than he is recognizable to the layman as a director, we can deduce this is a movie prettier to look at than it is to enjoy as a narrative.
But really, those are all of the cons, and on the happier side of criticism there are a few merits to tag onto it as well.
In the instances where scenes are played for cheek rather than tat earnest, there are a few good laughs to be found, (and almost all have to do with the Leigh character). Additionally, the film is quite beautifully lit, and the color work is particularly smart for its period, (although you can tell Mate isn't quite that comfortable in arranging his compositions for this new ratio). And lastly, while it's a minor point that probably wouldn't be considered a plus by all, I take some pleasure in noting that the chain-mail blouse Leigh sports in one scene must have been very cold indeed, as it comes to two sharp points in a way that's bound to claim the attentions of most, (if not all) heterosexual men. For America in the 1950's, this had to be scandalous, (although you'll hear no complaints from me) and I wouldn't be surprised to learn that it sparked some consternation back in the day.
All told, if you're a fan of this period of films, and looking for an unassuming G-rated diversion, that's exactly what you'll find. If you're looking for something that approximates the virtues of the Michael Curtiz/Errol Flynn "Adventures of Robin Hood", you'll be disappointed.
As a note to those who pay special mind to picture quality, I have the standard def DVD edition, and have to say that while this comes from Eureka, it doesn't seem to equal the quality of the Masters of Cinema DVD's in terms of sharpness of transfer, (the resolution seems rather soft). So if you have access to a blu-ray player, I'm sure it's worth the added investment of one pound to go for that edition instead--especially as neither edition offers special features of any kind.
Before closing, though, I would like to add that, in honor of director Rudolph Mate, anyone interested in the history and craft of cinema should look up his credits as cinematographer at imdb; they run from Dreyer's "The Passion of Joan of Arc", (as well as "Michael" and "Vampyr") to Orson Welles' "Lady from Shanghai". Between those, there are outings with Hitchcock, ("Foreign Correspondent") Lubitsch, ("To Be or Not to Be") and others, (including "Pride of the Yankees").
Comparing Mate's work, even in "Falworth", against Guy Ritchie's recent "Sherlock Holmes" flic, (which I've seen recently at the theatre, and confess to having enjoyed somewhat) it's disheartening to see what's been lost in sacrificing artful lighting for the sake of digital imagery.
on 15 June 2014
THE BLACK SHIELD OF FALWORTH  [Blu-ray] All the Thundering Excitement of The Age of Chivalry! All the Pageantry and Excitement of Knighthood’s Epic Age!
In one his earliest and most dashing performances, Tony Curtis pursues his real-life bride Janet Leigh, while defending the British throne in this swashbuckling saga filled with jousts, jests and medieval super heroics.
The setting is in the reign of King Henry IV of England. Myles Falworth [Tony Curtis] is headstrong, handsome peasant, determined to learn the name of his slain father and discover his true heritage. His fiery ambition and swift sword, lead him to the majestic Mackworth Castle. There he must complete for both knighthood, as well as the hand of the fair Lady Anne [Janet Leigh], but her love is claimed by the evil, conniving Sir Walter Blunt [Patrick O'Neal]. All the while the English throne is being challenged to the death, from sinister forces within. Soon the fate of the realm and his beloved Lady Anne will depend upon his martial skill. But Myles Falworth must first unlock the secret of his own shocking, mysterious identity.
FILM FACT: It was the second of five films in which husband and wife Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh appeared together on screen during their marriage (1952-1961). The film was Universal-International's first feature in CinemaScope.
Cast: Tony Curtis, Janet Leigh, David Farrar, Barbara Rush, Herbert Marshall, Torin Thatcher, Dan O'Herlihy, Craig Hill, Ian Keith, Doris Lloyd, Rhys Williams, Leonard Mudie, Maurice Marsac, Leo Britt, Charles B. Fitzsimons, Gary Montgomery, Claud Allister, Hamilton Camp, Harry Cording (uncredited), Nicolas Coster (uncredited), Charles Evans (uncredited), Brett Halsey (uncredited), Chuck Hamilton (uncredited), Nelson Leigh (uncredited), Ralph Moratz (uncredited), Damian O'Flynn (uncredited) and Reginald Sheffield (uncredited)
Director: Ridolph Maté
Producers: Melville Tucker and Robert Arthur
Screenplay: Oscar Brodney and (novel "Men of Iron")
Composers: Hans J. Salter, Frank Skinner (uncredited) and Herman Stein (uncredited)
Cinematographer: Irving Glassberg
Video Resolution: 1080p [Technicolor]
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 [CinemaScope]
Audio: English: 2.0 Dolby Digital
Running Time: 99 minutes
Region: All Regions
Number of discs: 1
Studio: EUREKA! / Universal-International
Andrew’s Blu-ray Review: Available for the first time anywhere in the world in glorious 1080p encoded image and in its original aspect ratio 2.35:1. ‘The Black Shield of Falworth’ starring Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh was Universal-International's first feature in CinemaScope. In one of his earliest and most dashing performances, a young Myles Falworth [Tony Curtis] pursues his real-life bride Lady Anne [Janet Leigh], while defending the British throne in this swashbuckling saga filled with jousts, jests and medieval super heroics. The setting is England in the reign of King Henry IV, and Myles Falworth [Tony Curtis] is a headstrong, handsome peasant determined to learn the name of his slain father and discover his true heritage. Myles Falworth fiery ambition and swift sword lead him to the majestic MacWorth castle. There he must compete for both knighthood as well as the hand of the fair Lady Anne [Janet Leigh], but her love is claimed by the evil, conniving Sir Walter Blunt [Patrick O'Neal]. All the while the English throne is being challenged to the death from sinister forces within. Soon the fate of the realm, and his beloved Lady Anne, will depend upon his martial skill, but not before Myles Falworth must unlock the secret of his own shocking, mysterious identity. With its outstanding supporting cast and dazzling set design this is truly an epic tale of which legends are made! Starring the ever charismatic, multi-award winning Tony Curtis of ‘Some like It Hot,’ ‘Smell of Sweet Success’ and ‘The Defiant Ones,’ the OSCAR® nominated Janet Leigh of ‘PSYCHO’ and ‘The Manchurian Candidate, and directed by the OSCAR® nominated cinematographer Rudolph Mate.
Set in medieval period England, ‘The Black Shield of Falworth’ is the story of Myles Falworth [Tony Curtis] a peasant raised without ever knowing who his real father was. He goes to Mackworth castle to become a knight and regain his birth right. There he falls hopelessly in love with the Mackworth's daughter Lady Anne [Janet Leigh]. Their relationship leaves him very unpopular amongst the castle's inhabitants, jeopardising his ultimate goal; to bear the Black Shield of Falworth. Based on the novel “Men of Iron” by Howard Pyle.
‘The Black Shield of Falworth’ was Universal-International's first feature in CinemaScope; with colours almost hallucinatory in their garishness. The action is largely confined indoors with little location work off the lot. On a hunting trip the ageing King Henry IV [Ian Keith], needs must curtail his exercise, whereupon his host, Gilbert Blunt, Earl of Alban [David Farrar], is flattered to hear from his hangers-on that he will soon be the most powerful man in England. Gilbert Blunt, Earl of Alban [David Farrar] and his entourage stop at a humble farm to partake of some refreshment and one of the Gilbert Blunt, Earl Alban's lackeys makes lecherous advances to the young peasant girl he finds there and he is soundly beaten by the girl's brother Myles Falworth [Tony Curtis] who also knocks about the Gilbert Blunt, Earl of Alban's guards. Myles Falworth’s sister Meg [Barbara Rush], and their companion Diccon Bowman [Rhys Williams], make their escape to the local monastery, where the Abbott gives them a letter of introduction to the William, Earl of Mackworth [Herbert Marshall]. The Abbott explains that the William, Earl of Mackworth owes the youngster's father a favour. The siblings know nothing of their parentage and Myles Falworth in particular is eager to know his birth right.
Blu-ray Video Quality – ‘The Black Shield of Falworth’ appears very decent and approaching stellar on Blu-ray. Colours are bright and grain is apparent and detail advances beyond stand definition. This is only single-layered but it's always nice to see an earlier classic brought to hi-definition disc. The print used for this 55-year old film seems in quite good shape. In motion the image is very smooth and exceptionally clean with only a very few erratic speckles being noted. Skin tones seem true and contrast exhibits adequate, if not piercing, black levels. For the majority of the film daylight scenes are used and they look very good. This Blu-ray has no intrusive noise. By modern standards this is fairly tame visually but as a representation of the original - I doubt much more could be done. This Blu-ray probably looks like the film ‘The Black Shield of Falworth’ with vibrant colours and consistent grain that stand out as the most impressive attributes.
Blu-ray Audio Quality – No boasting going on here and it appears to be the same 2.0 Dolby Digital channel track used on the previous Eureka DVD of ‘The Black Shield of Falworth.’ I would have thought that an upgrade to 2.0 LPCM Stereo Audio would have been more appropriate, but the film doesn't really require a dynamic audio upgrade. The film's score is fairly typical of the 'genre' and it doesn't produce heavy bass or rousing fanfare and excepting in some of the action sequences at the end of the film. As stated above there are no Subtitles, which is quite strange for people who purchase the Blu-ray in a non-English speaking country.
Finally, if you lean towards a 50's medieval/Arthurian/knights themed film and then this has what you are looking for. It's cool to see youthful Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh together with the romance/adventure aspects, though curiously Tony Curtis, in his highly readable autobiography, claims this was the first and last. The glamorous couple cavort across Ye Merrie Olde Englande or the Universal-International back lot, and save Henry IV from a fate worse than a Kenneth Branagh remake. This swashbuckler features suave Herbert Marshall, decent swordfights, early CinemaScope photography and some wonderful Brooklyn accents. Indeed, some sources claim that the infamous line when Tony Curtis says "Yonder lies the castle of my fodda" is from this film, though others say it's from ‘The Prince Who Was a Thief.’ However, Tony Curtis in his autobiography claims it's from ‘The Son of Ali Baba.’ Although some may find the film underwhelm in its content. Perhaps a poor-man's ‘The Adventures of Robin Hood.’ I think the appeal lies mostly in the nostalgia for this early CinemaScope romp. It could easily be a solid first-feature 'B' picture for a home theatre night. The Blu-ray gives the film the best home theatre presentation that you are likely to see and if you love your films in the CinemaScope ratio and also in the stunning Technicolor, then you are in for a real treat, especially how old the film is and despite some people have given it a not so warm review, I still think it is fantastic and so pleased it is now ensconced in my ever increasing Blu-ray Collection. Highly Recommended!
Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Fan
Le Cinema Paradiso
WARE, United Kingdom