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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nostalgia Trip or Work of Genius?, 22 Oct. 2010
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This review is from: The Court Jester [DVD] [1956] (DVD)
If you have young kids there's a horrible possibility that you've never heard of Danny Kaye. And even worse, your kids will never get to see him. So you MUST buy this movie. Don't worry about the age of it. It's as fresh as the day it was made. Don't worry about the style of the movie. Your kids no doubt dote on THE WIZARD OF OZ which is yonks older and THE COURT JESTER has many of its attributes. Treat yourself and your family to a work of comic genius. Or is it?

I confess I have to be careful here. THE COURT JESTER is a childhood treasure. My sis and I, dragged off the rainy streets into a fleapit cinema, sat back enthralled as a blaze of colour flashed before us, a lavish, comic romp which left us wet-eyed and aching with laughter. So am I guilty of nostalgia? Well, I bought the DVD at Amazon's wonderfully silly price, sat back to watch with intent objectivity and ended up (yes, you guessed it) wet-eyed and aching with laughter.

Danny Kaye was unique in that he combined sublime, razor-sharp physical comedy with hilarious tongue-twisting wordplay. I can think of no one else who combined them so skilfully. Comparisons with Jim Carrey amaze me. Like comparing Russell Brand with Peter Sellers - completely different league. And the film outplays most modern equivalents in every area, even the best of them. It's cram-packed with comic sequences of mind-blowing quality. The famous joust with it's glorious build up is just one of them. The Knighting Ceremony is to my mind in the top ten comic scenarios ever filmed. The amazing fencing scene with Basil Rathbone, the hilarous courting sequence with the princess and the glorious finale are just as good. Look out for the fabulous disposal of the king's soldiers into the moat.

The plot is excellent, a maze of twists and turns, unexpected turn-ups - farce at its best. Few modern scripts match it. The writing is top drawer, wonderfully funny wordplay and rhyme, great little one-liners and tongue in cheek parody of its Errol Flynn origin. And Danny Kaye delivers with such jaw-dropping skill - sometimes you watch in disbelief.

The music is good too. A couple of great melodies, steeped in the craft of the fifties musical songwriters and some lightning, virtuoso verbal gallops, Danny's trademark deliveries which delighted kids of the fifties and which have lost none of their sparkle.

The cast is fabulous. He's supported by an excellent Rathbone and a brilliant Cecil Parker as the King - a performance never given the credit it deserves. Glynis Johns still ticks all my boxes and all the minor parts are played (and over-played) superbly. I love the hypnotic lady in waiting.

But a word of warning. Danny Kaye (like many of his contemporaries) was prone to outbursts of whimp-cringing, bottom clenching sentimentality. Though this in my opinion is the best of his movies and the least infected, it's a feature of many American films of the period and genre (even worse today). But we hardy Brits can turn away from such sick-making drippery and return to the film when it has passed like an unwanted cloud. Unfortunately much of it occurs at the outset of the movie as the plot is introduced so STICK WITH IT! All the fabulous stuff is twenty minutes into the film and well worth waiting for. Strap the kids to the settee!

So. Is this film a work of comic genius?

YEAH! VERILY YEAH!

And what should you do with this DVD?

GET IT! GOT IT? Good.
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