The continuation of my post on my favourite classic swashbuckler movies. The first part can be found here. There may be spoilers contained below, so if you haven’t seen the movies, you might want to check them out first!
3. The Mark of Zorro, 1940. Starring Tyrone Power, Basil Rathbone.
Tyrone Power was often said to be the best on screen sword fighter of his day. Here he takes on the role of the hero, Don Diego Vega against Basil Rathbone’s villain, Captain Pasquale. I should probably be putting this one in joint second, it’s that good, but, well, I didn’t!
I think pretty much everyone is familiar with the story of Zorro; nobleman takes up the cause of the oppressed common folk, wins them their freedom from tyranny, everybody rejoices. Even after all this time it makes for a great story.
The real high point of this film is the sword fight between Power and Rathbone and it’s as fine an example of on screen swashbuckling that you will find, possibly the best.
Having this film all the way down in third place really doesn’t do it justice, and any of my top five or six are more than worthy of the top spot.
4. The Adventures of Robin Hood, 1938. Starring Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Basil Rathbone.
This is Errol Flynn at his peak, and is perhaps the movie he is most famous for, taking on the role of the film’s hero, Robin Hood. Basil Rathbone appears once again putting in a superb performance as the baddy, Guy of Gisbourne.
This is another one that needs little explanation. Robin Hood’s been done so many times over the years that there can’t be too many people who don’t know what it’s about!
The sword fight between Flynn and Rathbone is arguably the most exciting ever filmed. Thinking about it again, and having just taken another quick look at it I really find it hard to put it down here in fourth spot. It’s iconic and has everything you could want in a great sword fight including a shot of the duellist’s shadows on the wall as they fight. The only reason I can think of leaving it here at number four is that I really love all the movies that have come before it for reasons other than just sword play, and for some reason I’ve never been all that fond of the Robin Hood story, despite the fact that I really enjoy watching this movie every time I see it.
Again, any of the movies I’ve mentioned so far are deserving of the top spot and this one is no exception. Really worth a look just for that last fight if nothing else.
5. Scaramouche, 1952. Starring Stewart Granger, Janet Leigh, Mel Ferrer.
The writing of Rafael Sabatini makes another appearance on the list, and it’s no coincidence that he is one of my favourite authors. Stewart Granger arriving on the scene means that we’ve now got pretty much all the greats of Hollywood swashbuckling (yes, I know there is one more!) present and accounted for. On an entirely individual level, he’s probably my favourite of the swashbuckling film stars and this is again a movie that could be in the top spot on a different day.
Somewhat more complicated storyline this time. Granger plays André Moreau, a French gentleman who does not know who his father is. The revolution comes which sees him becoming the champion of the people in opposition to the noble faction at the post revolutionary National Assembly, after a brief spell on the stage playing the character Scaramouche. Intrigue, twists and sword fights abound as he seeks revenge and also his true identity.
It’s a little difficult to pick out my favourite sword fight in this one; there are several, all of which are highly entertaining. As I write, I’m beginning to think this one should be bumped up the list a bit too. Having 5 joint number 1’s would be ridiculous though, wouldn’t it?
More to follow in Part III!