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The Court Jester [VHS]
Musical family comedy set in 12th-century England, starring Danny Kaye as a court jester who becomes involved with outlaws trying to overthrow the king. In between singing, dancing and clowning, he still finds time to joust with knights, duel with swordsmen and rescue damsels in distress.
Danny Kaye spoofs Robin Hood and Scaramouche in this inventive slapstick swashbuckler. Portraying the clownish but good-hearted entertainer Hawkins, he infiltrates the court of the corrupt Basil Rathbone (up to his usual brand of cruel villainy) disguised as the legendary king of jesters, Giacomo. After a court sorceress hypnotises Hawkins into believing he is also a legendary assassin, Hawkins has more identities than he can keep straight, and Kaye zips back and forth between them at, literally, a snap of the fingers. Comic highlights include a wonderful sword fight with Rathbone in which he constantly switches identities, and the classic "chalice from the palace/vessel with pestle" wordplay as Hawkins plays "hide the poison" and forgets where it is. With comely Glynis Johns as his spy-in-arms love interest, Angela Lansbury as the scheming princess, and Mildred Natwick as the dotty spellcaster, this is Danny Kaye at his comic best. --Sean Axmaker, Amazon.com
Top Customer Reviews
Yes, Kaye at his least annoying and most endearing in a colourful period comedy with lots of memorable scenes and a typically wonderful villainous performance from the inimitable Basil Rathbone. So throw away those old grainy VHS copies taped from analogue tv and bask in sumptuous digitally restored (we hope!) technicolor and enjoy what Leonard Maltin called "one of the best comedies ever made"! A classic - Enjoy!!
The story (set in a mediaeval England which cheerfully makes no attempt at historical accuracy) is remarkably solid and complex, which helps maintain the film's brisk pace.
So when you are in the mood for some good old-fashioned fun, put your feet up and summon "The Court Jester".
Update: I saw this DVD again recently and I think I was too mean with my original 4 stars. This is a 5-star classic.
inventive and sustained feature. The Robin Hood type parody
of the swashbuckling genre is tailor-made for Kaye's unique
comic gifts for patter, tongue-twisters and slapstick. In
fact, he received a special honorary Oscar for this performance.
Oscar does occasionally get it right.
Danny plays Hawkins, a member of a group of forest rebels
who are protecting the infant heir to the throne from the
usurper King Roderick. To overthrow him Hawkins must infiltrate
the palace and court disguised as Giacomo, King of Jesters
and Jester of Kings.
Once within the palace, the somewhat timid and awkward
Hawkins is hypnotized by court enchantress Griselda (Mildred
Natwick) into believing himself to be a bold and fearless
master swordsman and cunning assassin. A finger snap is
Hawkins trigger to switch to his bold new persona,
and naturally the ensuing scenes have more inopportune snaps than a revival of West side story.
In these scenes Kaye displays rare comic finesse, switching
instantaneously between cringing incompetence and
swaggering, emboldened valor.
There is an impressive fencing scene with the villianous
Sir Ravenhurst (Basil Rathbone, often called Hollywood's
greatest fencer ever). After Rathbone hung up his Sherlock
Holmes deerstalker, he went on to perfect the character of
the elegant, aquilline evildoer. I always thought he deserved
a knighthood for real.
In another uproarious scene, Hawkins entertains banquet
guests with the complex, dazzling word-play of "The Jester's lament", because "...a Jester unemployed is nobody's Fool.Read more ›
The plot should be brushed over - it's intricate and daft as a good farce should be, revolving around mistaken identities and wooing the girl, and multiple characters up to nefarious deeds. Complications arise when Kaye tries to pretend he is the Jester, and is then hypnotised to believe he is a great swordsman and lover, and changes between identities at the snap of a finger. It is the wonderful script that makes the difference, particularly in Kaye's verbally dextrous moments. This is the movie that first did the `The vessel with the pestle has the brew that is true, the chalice from the palace has the pellet with the poison' sketch, which is still classic these many years later. However, there are plenty of other classic scenes such as `When the Doge did his duty and the Duke didn't, that's when the Duchess did the dirt to the Duke with the Doge.' speech, and any scenes with the incomparable Basil Rathbone - still the dashing figure and fencer even at 63.
Support from the brilliant Cecil Parker as the King and even Angela Lansbury as the King's daughter elevate proceedings to make this worth watching, as all of the cast are faultless in their comic timing.
In vivid Technicolour, and with a clean print and clear sound, this is a great buy - shame it is presented as a vanilla disc (no extras) but even so, worth acquiring for repeated viewing. This is the quintessential light hearted and high spirited swashbuckler spoof, with appeal to both kids and adults.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
From Gran, to the whole family, sheer joy. "but which vessel has the brew that is true?" great movie. Alex FPublished 3 months ago by Alex Fraser
Danny Kaye as talented as ever. Very funny from the word go, a peerless Hollywood comedy from the 50's. If you are feeling blue this is an ideal pick me up. Recommended.Published 3 months ago by Wordy
Timeless classic, my children liked The court jester and now my grandchildren like it tooPublished 3 months ago by Only me!