During the 1700s, pirate Captain Vallo seizes a British warship and gets involved in various money-making schemes involving Caribbean rebels led by El Libre, British envoy Baron Jose Gruda, and a beautiful courtesan named Consuelo.
During the Rif War in Morocco, the French Foreign Legion's outpost of Tarfa is threatened by Khalif Hussein's tribes but Sergeant Mike Kincaid devises a plan of survival until the arrival of French reinforcements.
Twelfth-century Lombardy lies under the iron heel of German overlord Count Ulrich 'The Hawk', but in the mountains, guerillas yet resist. Five years before our story, Ulrich stole away the pretty wife of young archer Dardo who, cynical rather than embittered, still has little interest in joining the rebels. But this changes when his son, too, is taken from him. The rest is lighthearted swashbuckling, plus romantic interludes with lovely hostage Anne.Written by
Rod Crawford <firstname.lastname@example.org>
"The Flame & The Arrow" (1950)was one of the last of the great Warner Bros. swashbucklers. From a screenplay by Waldo Salt this hugely enjoyable romp was directed with great flair by Jacques Tourneur. It was originally planned as a vehicle for Errol Flynn but by the time the picture went into production the erstwhile heroic Flynn was past his sell-by date and would be unable for the knockabout antics the part demanded (he had barely got through "The Adventures Of Don Juan" two years previously thanks to many short takes and having doubles perform a lot of his action scenes). Instead, a young and stunningly acrobatic Burt Lancaster was cast as Dardo, a sort of Robin Hood in medieval Italy fighting the oppression of the occupying Hessions.
Produced by Lancaster's Norma Productions (named after his wife) it was fully fleshed out with a splendid cast. Playing Dardo's mute friend Piccolo was Nick Cravat - Lancaster's friend and fellow performer from their circus days.The lovely Virginia Mayo played the love interest Anne of Hess. Robert Douglas is a likable rogue through most of the picture until he gets a taste of power and turns bad and Frank Allenby, looking remarkably like the Great Profile John Barrymore, played the villainous Hawk (the original title of the movie was "The Hawk & The Arrow").
Lancaster is marvellous to watch! Performing all his own stunts his high flying antics are a joy to behold. No other actor, before or since, would prove to be so agile and provide such a spirited performance! His athletic prowess is outstanding and little wonder he was Warner's first choice to play the great native American athlete Jim Thorpe in their biographical "Jim Thorpe-All American" (aka "Man Of Bronz") in 1952. Although he did a kind of follow-up to "The Flame & The Arrow" two years later with the more comical "The Crimson Pirate" it is a shame he then ceased doing this type of movie as we could have tolerated him in quite a few more of them.
Beautifully photographed in colour by the great Ernest Haller the movie has all the hallmarks of Warner's high production values. Adding greatly to the picture's proceedings is the wonderful Italianate score by Max Steiner! His ebullient music, like the picture, is a total delight especially his infectious and hum inducing main theme for Dardo scored for mandolins and orchestra and the gorgeous love theme for the scenes with Dardo & the lady Anne. There's a splendid driving battle theme too! Steiner's music was nominated for an Acadamy Award but lost out to Franz Waxman's darker "Sunset Boulevard".
The picture has transferred extremely well to disc with sharp images and fine colour resolution but quite dispensable are a Merrie Melodies cartoon and a tired Joe McDoakes short. It is also a pity that a documentary of Lancaster was not included.
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