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The Black Rose [DVD]
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Tyrone Powers stars in this glossy historical adventure as a Saxon nobleman who travels to China to make his fortune. Cast out of 13th century England after a failed rebellion against his Norman oppressors, Walter of Gurnie (Tyrone Power) first travels to North Africa where he encounters headstrong tribal leader Bayan (Orson Welles). As he journeys further afield, he eventually reaches China, where, at the insistence of his hosts, he remains, accumulating scientific knowledge. Finally fleeing his captors, Walter returns to his native land, where, his past sins forgotten, he is hailed as a hero.
The Black Rose concerns 13th-century Saxon nobleman Walter of Gurnie, who, after sparking an unsuccessful rebellion against the Norman conquerors of his homeland, sets out to seek his fortune in the Far East.
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- A Yank in the RAF (1941, war adventure, drama)
- The Mark of Zorro (1940, action adventure)
- The Razor's Edge (1946, drama, very good if you like the genre)
- In Old Chicago (1937, drama, musical)
- Second Fiddle (1939, comedy, musical)
Mark of Zorro is provided with English, Spanish, German and Italian tracks. The other films have only an English track.
All of them are region 2, PAL, B&W, and contain [at least] English subtitles. Image cleanliness seems average (no remastering or cleansing here).
Not a bad set but far from what I expected. In any case, I find it worthy of the 10+ pounds invested. 2 Pounds a film is a bargain.
The 3-star review goes to the lack of information and not to the box set itself or its price.
A decent supporting cast of British movie regulars (James Robertson Justice, Finlay Currie, Herbert Lom) try their best, though some, like Michael Rennie, barely hide their boredom at it all. Despite getting off to a truly terrible start, Jack Hawkins' sidekick at least improves as the film goes on, which is more than can be said for leading lady Cecile Aubrey, who looks like the kind of annoyingly precious schoolgirl that makes vasectomy seem like a good idea. The less said about a horrendously badly dubbed Alfonso Bedoya the better.
It's not a total loss - Orson Welles' genial turn as Kublai Khan's ruthless general Bayan `of the Hundred Eyes' sees to that even though he has nothing to do but act genial and bemused by his English recruits. If anything, the presence of the director of Citizen Kane in the cast only acts to remind you of how shoddily made the film is. Some of the editing is surprisingly crude and awkward, with many shots matching so badly you could almost be forgiven for thinking they were shot for different films, and it's hard to tell whether the surprisingly dreary Technicolor photography in the English scenes is by design or simply down to color fading. Even Richard Addinsell can't summon up any enthusiasm in his score. It's hard not to agree when Power says "I wish I had something more to tell you. It all ought to add up to something." Dire stuff.
Extras on the Region 1 NTSC DVD include a featurette reuniting Power's children, stills galleries and trailer, though the Region 2 PAL DVD is extras-free.
Blood and Sand (1941) -- Blood and Sand is not a swashbuckler, but an allegory of a man's pride, lust and ambition, played out in the bullring, about a man who is redeemed by the love of a good woman and a death ennobled by regret. In other words, the movie is a Hollywood weeper. Still, it shows what can be accomplished when professionals take hold of a teary melodrama and give it color, sleekness, sex and, at 27, an extraordinarily handsome leading man in Tyrone Power. Rita Hayworth, as the femme fatale, is almost as pretty.
Son of Fury (1942) -- If Son of Fury were the title of a paperback novel, we'd expect a bodice-ripping, heavy-breathing Regency romance. What we have is a highly professional Darryl F. Zanuck adventure of surprising innocence and charm. Everything about the movie, from the actors to the script to the cinematography, features such a high level of craftsmanship that the few corny moments pass quickly. The story, even with a stolen inheritance, a wicked uncle and a South Seas cutie, is told with such professional attention to naivety that we cheer for Ben, hiss his uncle, and even find the unlikely conclusion satisfying.
Captain from Castile (1947) - If Captain from Castile is remembered much today it probably is because of one of the most rousing marches a Hollywood composer ever wrote. The "Conquest" theme is heard only three times, and the first two are brief but effective scene setters. We have to wait until the movie is almost over and Hernan Cortez is setting out on his march to the Aztec capital of Tenochititlan for the full treatment. The music, by Alfred Newman, embraces the moment, with hundreds of soldiers, the priests, the natives, the hangers-on spreading out before us, the horizon lightening and a single volcano smoking in the distance. The theme is inspiring, martial, emotional, uplifting and memorable. It's enough to make most movie goers want to sign up and most historians queasy. After all, in less than a generation a civilization of between 2 million and 6 million people was obliterated.
Prince of Foxes (1949) -- If passionate love, convivial betrayals and loyalty one can change as quickly as one's shirt intrigues you, you'll most likely enjoy Prince of Foxes. If nothing else, you'll learn a great party trick that involves two eyeballs and two thumbs. Prince of Foxes, in my view, is one of the best of the Tyrone Power adventure films. It stands out in part because we find ourselves operating in the lusty, double-dealing world of Cesare Borgia. And while Orson Welles, who plays Borgia, can't resist slicing the ham with gusto, it must be admitted that he brings a lot of joie de vivre to villainy.
The Black Rose (1950) -- And what's a black rose? We're told it is the name given to the clove, the most precious of spices. In this case, the clove is Maryam, played by Cecile Aubry. She was a small French actress who looks no older than 14. She has a small mouth which is filled with tiny teeth and a plump tongue, and she occasionally jumps about to express enthusiasm. If Vera-Ellen and Charlie McCarthy had ever had a child, it would look a lot like Cecile Aubry. The movie, The Black Rose, is no stinker, but the one insuperable drawback is its disjointed nature. We move from Norman England 200 years after William the Conqueror, to the middle-east and then on to a Mongol army moving and battling its way toward China, then to the imperial court of China itself, and finally back to England. It seems to me to be one of Power's weakest romantic-adventure films.