Friday, December 18, 2009

Robert Wagner's bad hair day

One half of the above photo is a publicity still, the other half is a comic strip. I'm not sure which is which. Both, however, have to do with Prince Valiant, a movie version of which was made in 1954 and is showing tomorrow at noon ET on the Fox Movie Channel.

Set "in the days of King Arthur", the story in this version involves Norse Prince Valiant (Wagner, complete with a ridiculous wig) having to deal with the fact that his father (Donald Crisp) has had his throne taken from him. So, Valiant goes to England to enlist the help of King Arthur (Brian Aherne), or at least become a Knight of the Round Table and solve problems himself. Valiant's love interest, Aleta, is played here by Janet Leigh, who at least looks the part, while Aleta is also being chased by Gawain, who is played by a terribly miscast Sterling Hayden. There's also evil, in the form of James Mason....

Truth be told, Prince Valiant isn't all that good; it's more fun to watch because of all the big names put in the wrong roles. If you want to ask yourself what poor Sterling Hayden was thinking, you'll get that in spades. If you like swashbuckling, Middle Ages style, with a lot of location shooting, the movie is enjoyable enough, but nothing great, being a bit formulaic and fitting into the genre like a hand in glove. (That's both a plus and a minus; the minus being that you wonder if everybody was just going through the motions.) It'll probably be fairly entertaining for the kiddies, too. If you're trying to introduce people to classic cinema, however, this isn't the movie to do it with. Start with the Errol Flynn version of The Adventures of Robin Hood.

Amazingly, Prince Valiant got a DVD release.

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