My Favourite Swashbucklers Part III

Parts I and II of this can be found by clicking on the numerals. Once again, there is the potential for spoilers to be present below, so proceed with that in mind!

6. The Black Swan, 1942. Starring Tyrone Power, Maureen O’Hara.

Tyrone Power makes his second appearance on the list in the movie adaptation of Rafael Sabatini’s novel.

This is a pirate adventure movie set around the time of Sir Henry Morgan’s governorship of Jamaica. Power plays one of his pirate captains and supporters in the face of rivalry with other factions and the Spanish.

The climax of this film is the sword fight between Power and the pirate Captain Leech. Power’s class as a swordsman really makes this one shine as they battle above and below decks on Leech’s ship.

7. The Master of Ballantrae, 1953. Starring Errol Flynn, Roger Livesey.

Errol Flynn makes yet another appearance as the hero, ably backed up by Roger Livesey, perhaps better known for his leading role in The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp. This flick is set against the backdrop the Jacobite Rising in Scotland and the Battle of Culloden. It’s based on Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel of the same name.

Flynn’s character is a Jacobite rebel forced to flee Scotland after the rebellion is crushed, leaving behind his lands, titles and paramour. Various adventures follow before he is able to return home and put everything to right.

For me the highlight of this one is the sword fight between Flynn’s character Jamie Durie and the pirate, Captain Arnaud, which occurs a little after mid-way through the film. Another great example of Hollywood swashbuckling and Captain Arnaud is an excellent villain, stylish and colourful in his pirate finery.

8. The Moonraker, 1958. Starring George Baker, Sylvia Sims.

George Baker takes the lead role in this film set after the English Civil War. An interesting bit of trivia (to me anyway!) is that Baker provided the voice over for George Lazenby’s James Bond in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service in the scenes where Bond was disguised as Sir Hilary Bray, as well as playing that character during his appearance in the film.

Baker plays a Scarlet Pimpernel type character who rescues Royalists from Roundhead persecution and facilitates their escape from England to France. Perhaps the film should have been titled The Pimpernel Scarlet. Bad joke. It’ll be the only one. I promise!

This one kind of bucks the Hollywood trend in that there are entertaining sword fights the whole way through; they don’t save it all up for a flashy finale. As an English film, it has a very different feel to it than the Hollywood swashbucklers, but it is well worth a look if you get the chance.

9. The Sea Hawk, 1940. Starring Errol Flynn, Brenda Marshall.

Errol Flynn once again, swashbuckling with aplomb. Although this one takes its name from another Raphael Sabatini novel, it sadly doesn’t take its storyline from it. In saying that, the story that is used is still an entertaining enough romp.

The plot revolves around the Sea Hawks, a group of English privateer captains making war on the Spanish Empire on behalf of Queen Elizabeth I.

Once again the climax at the end is a sword fight between Flynn’s Captain Thorpe and an opponent who shall remain nameless as it would be a bit of a giveaway! All the required elements of a good clash of blades are here, including the old ‘camera focus on the fencers’ shadows’, but my favourite part is where Flynn slices through the candle sticks, quite why I couldn’t say for sure, but it looks pretty cool!

My footnote to this film is that I’d love to have seen Flynn make a movie that was true to the Sabatini novel, it’s a really good one.

Part IV can be found here.

My Favourite Swashbucklers Part II

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!