Time: 96 mins.
Rating: Not Rated
SYNOPSIS: An Englishman vacationing in a Ruritarian kingdom is recruited to impersonate his cousin, the soon-to-be-crowned king when the monarch is drugged and kidnapped by his half-brother who wants the throne for himself.
BOTTOM LINE: The fifth remake of Anthony Hope's popular 1894 novel has Stewart Granger playing the duel role of king and imposter cousin. Though he was a fairly big Hollywood star during this decade, this is the first time I've watched one of his films. While he manages to make each character distinct, he wasn't always the most interesting actor on the screen, which is sort of a problem when you're the star. Apparently, this film is a shot-for-shot, exact dialogue, same musical score, remake of the 1937 version – only in Technicolor with a different cast and a bigger finale. I can never understand why studios/filmmakers do this since one is then forced to compare them to each other. However, I haven't seen the earlier take on this classic tale, so I enjoyed this version well enough for a film about court intrigue, true love and mistaken identity.
While Granger is not exactly the most charismatic actor to play a king, he holds his own quite well, especially in the more physically demanding moments. While I wouldn't call his chemistry with Kerr – who plays Princess Flavia the King's destined bride-to-be – incendiary, they manage to make an honest connection that gives the film a bit of pathos and some romance in between all the male posturing. Kerr has a tough role, mostly trying to give Flavia more personality than her lavish costumes. She gives the film grace and class, though not enough passion to convince you of true love. That she falls hard for Granger's imposter king is not difficult to understand since, at the very least, the current one isn't stone drunk and can carry on a conversation. Perhaps clues that he wasn't actually the king, but who'd believe her if she brought that up? She's just a pawn in this game of throne chasing.
The film's biggest problem is in the villian department. While the plot to get rid of King Rudolf and then his imposter is quite well-crafted and exciting, it's hard to believe Prince Michael, as played by Douglas, and his right-hand man, Rupert of Hentzau, as played by Mason, could actually pull the coup off. Douglas seems alternately bored and petulant without appearing at all dangerous, and Mason, though devilish and devious, is more flippant and foppish than ferocious. Granted there's not much for either of them to go on as far as character development is concerned, but it's hard to believe they would actually kill the King to get what they want, which takes the edge off the final act of the film. There are some good action pieces along the way and the ultimate duel between Rudolf and Rupert is a well-choreographed fight to the death, using every prop and location to their deadliest advantage. The fancy costumes, grand set design and lush cinematography makes this film appear more substantial than it really is. Ah, the joys of Technicolor. A fun flick for those looking for a bit of adventure, though nothing you'll remember the next day.