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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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The actual contents is
- 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.
This is a classic film, the young Tyrone Power, along with trusty side-kick Jack Hawkins, set off for China in search of gunpowder, gold and girls.
Unfortunately there's too much chat and not enough swash-buckling, potentially this could have been a great action adventure, and quite convincing (despite Orson Welles as Ghengis Khan); imagine returning to England having conquered China, carrying pots of jewels, gunpowder and all the wonders of the Orient?
But sadly Hawkins gets killed in one of the few action sequences, all the battles are in the distance or talked about rather than fought.
Well worth a look though, Cécile Aubry is a magical (if idiotic) Maryam, Jack Hawkins the hopeless romantic.
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