THE SWORD AND THE ROSE (1953) is a fine Disney adventure-romance set at the court of Henry VIII.
In the postwar years Walt Disney had funds in England which could not leave the country due to legal restrictions, so he used the money to make a series of films there, beginning with TREASURE ISLAND (1950). Disney next produced a trio of period films in the UK starring actor Richard Todd.
THE SWORD AND THE ROSE was the second of the three Todd films, following THE STORY OF ROBIN HOOD AND HIS MERRIE MEN (1952); both films were directed by Ken Annakin, with James Robertson Justice in support. Justice would go on to appear with Todd in the third film, ROB ROY: THE HIGHLAND ROGUE (1953), as did THE SWORD AND THE ROSE stars Glynis Johns and Michael Gough. Ken Annakin had other contractual obligations so Harold French directed ROB ROY.
The crafty Mary has diplomatic skills surpassing the most experienced statesmen, and she carefully "manages" her brother and negotiates her way to eventual happiness. The climax of this 92-minute film is an exciting rescue and sword battle, followed by a most satisfying conclusion.
WHEN KNIGHTHOOD WAS IN FLOWER by Charles Major. It's a top-drawer script smoothly balancing romance, intrigue, and action leavened with considerable humor. The dialogue and intricate plotting is fairly sophisticated for Disney; children can enjoy it as a colorful, fast-moving action film, while their parents enjoy watching Johns as calculating Mary, thinking three steps ahead of everyone in her orbit.
Todd is handsome and gallant, having a chance to shine in the film's final act, but this is Johns' film all the way, with a nod of appreciation to Justice for his excellent work as Henry VIII. Johns is a particular delight in scenes where she "innocently" manipulates those around her, including two kings and the man she admires, to achieve the desired results. These skills are particularly useful when she wants to keep the repulsive old King of France at arm's length.
The previously mentioned Michael Gough plays the Duke of Buckingham, who pretends to support Mary's romance with Brandon while plotting to wed her himself. The film's supporting cast also includes Jane Barrett, Peter Copley, Rosalie Crutchley, and D.A. Clarke-Smith.
Peter Ellenshaw; on one level the viewer is aware that paintings are frequently used as the backgrounds, yet they're so very beautiful it doesn't matter if they're not completely realistic.
THE SWORD AND THE ROSE has had a release on VHS, but curiously the only U.S. DVD release has been a Disney Movie Rewards edition which is only sold by various secondhand vendors at considerable expense. Fortunately ClassicFlix has the DVD in its rental inventory, and the film can also be streamed for a fee at Amazon Instant Video. As of this writing it's also available on YouTube.
THE SWORD AND THE ROSE is a Disney film which deserves to be much better known. In the meantime, this enjoyable film is very much worth renting or viewing via streaming.